Philadelphia archdiocese finds two priests unsuitable for ministry

(CNN) — Two Catholic priests accused of wrongdoing have been declared unfit for service by the Philadelphia archdiocese and will no longer be allowed to minister.

Joseph J. Gallagher, 78, and Mark S. Gaspar, 43, are two of the 26 priests who were suspended by the archdiocese after a 2011 grand jury investigation into the archdiocese’s handling of child sex abuse allegations. They were placed on administrative leave while the church looked into allegations of abuse and misconduct.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said the investigations of Gallagher and Gaspar found substantiated violations of the “Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries,” an archdiocese guide for behavior, including interaction with children and youths. The violations were not explained.

“After reviewing all the facts, as well as recommendations from competent external authorities, I made the decisions I feel are right and just,” Chaput said in a statement released Sunday.

Gallagher retired in 2006 from the Church of St. Richard of Chichester in Philadelphia. Gaspar was a priest at Our Lady of Charity Church in Brookhaven, Pennsylvania, when he was suspended in 2011. There has been no public response from either man. They will have the right to appeal to the Vatican.

Gallagher is the priest at the center of a wrongful-death suit filed against the archdiocese by the family of Daniel Neill, who killed himself in 2009 after his allegations were deemed not credible by church officials. According to the 2007 grand jury report, Neill reported that Gallagher repeatedly fondled him when he was a minor and served as an altar boy in Bristol, Pennsylvania.

“This is too little too late to help our clients whose son committed suicide, having been abused by Gallagher,” said attorney Marci Hamilton, who represents the Neill family. “But it is good news for parents who can at least now know that Gallagher and Gaspar should not be near children.”

Of the 26 priests who were suspended in 2011, nine have been found unsuitable for the ministry and eight have been found suitable. One priest has been arrested and one died before a full investigation could be conducted. Seven cases are still outstanding.

With nearly 1.5 million members, the Philadelphia archdiocese is one of the largest in the nation.