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Scoop: What Happened to Suspended Priest?

In the first installment of our newest column, we looked into the March suspension of St. Katharine of Siena pastor John Close.

On March 7, pastor Msgr. John A. Close was removed from active ministry and, after an initial investigation by the Church, became one of 21 priests suspended indefinitely by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia due to credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.

Though Close maintains his innocence, and can't be legally prosecuted because the statue of limitations on his accusers has expired—in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a child sex abuse accuser who turned 18 before Aug. 27, 2002 extends until they reach age 30.

Both of Close's accusers came forward after this window closed—Archdiocese director of communications Donna Farrell told Patch in an email that the Church is conducting it's own investigation against Close and the other priests who were accused.

"[The investigation] is ongoing," Farrell wrote. "It's hoped all of the cases will be resolved soon but I can't provide an exact time line."

Farrell said she was barred from getting into specifics about where Close will be spending his indefinite leave (it's unclear if she knows), but referred us to an Archdiocese bulletin that emphasized he wouldn't be allowed anywhere near St. Katharine while he's being investigated.

"While on administrative leave, priests do not reside in a parish, nor participate in any parish or school activities and they may not exercise their priestly ministry publicly," the bulletin read.

Close is, however, allowed to wear his clerical garb. He also receives full salary.

Close, who worked at nine parishes with schools in his four decades as a priest, has two separate accusers. In 1998, a man told the Archdiocese and Philadelphia police that he had been molested by Close as an eight grader at Christ the King school in 1969, Close's first assignment after his ordination earlier that year. The man reported that the abuse took place at Close's Margate, New Jersey beach house and the parish sacristy.

The Archdiocese looked into the accusation in 2004 (the reason for the delay is unclear) and deemed that it was "unsubstantiated." This may have something to do with the fact that the accuser was convicted of murder in 1998, not long after reporting the abuse to authorities.

In the Spring of 2011, after hearing about Close's suspension, a second man came forward and claimed that Close molested him from 1992-94 while he was a student at Archbishop Wood High School. The abuse began, he said, while he was 14 and had caused him anxiety, depression, and triggered a drug problem.

Judy Jones December 14, 2011 at 02:06 PM
"Close is, however, allowed to wear his clerical garb. He also receives full salary."? You have got to be kidding... this is extremely dangerous, and innocent kids could be at risk. And yes you can tell the public where he is now located. Church officials can never be trusted to have our children’s best interest at heart. If you have knowledge or have been harmed by Close, please report it to the police, not church officials. Crimes against kids, however old, should be investigated by the independent professionals in law enforcement, not the biased amateurs in church offices. Also, know that you are not alone, and there is hope, help, and a chance to protect kids. Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511 snapjudy@gmail.com "Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" and all clergy. http://www.snapnetwork.org/
Michael December 16, 2011 at 05:05 AM
The investigation that has been arranged is NOT independent. The archdiocese of has selected a law firm and pays them to investigate both parties. Not that everything written by reporters is exact but from all of the written articles so far, Close seems to be worried about image in the public eye and what others may think of him in his parishes and family. What about the abused? What about the lives they are trapped within and somehow finding a way to get through? There is never one child when it comes to sex offenders as such and hopefully those others who have been abused will come forth and speak out. There is help and there is a way to heal, even though it seems hopeless. He can pray for the accusers all he wants, and pretend like he cares but his own arrogance will only give him away. Did he actually compare himself to Christ and being nailed to the cross as an innocent man, standing before God? This man needs to be in a place far away from children permanently and his God complex challenged in a facility until professionals crack him open. Canon law has been the saving grace for priests like Close. The times are not only changing but no longer shall canon law be above the laws set by humans, nor sociopaths who try to hide behind them.

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