March 28, 2005

Phila. priest who admits fondling girl is suspended

Philadelphia Inquirer

By Nancy Phillips
Inquirer Staff Writer

The Catholic Church has suspended a former Center City pastor and placed him under investigation after he admitted to The Inquirer that he had repeatedly fondled a teenage girl decades ago.

The church acted after being told by The Inquirer of allegations against Msgr. Philip J. Dowling on March 18. That day, church officials barred him from public ministry and from wearing his collar in public.

Dowling, 75, who retired in July as pastor of St. Patrick parish, told the newspaper that he had repeatedly engaged in "inappropriate" touching of the girl, but denied abusing her sister, as both women now allege. He admitted the touching was sexual. "It crossed the bound," he said, "and I'm very sorry for the inappropriate acts and touches."

The case raises questions about District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham's long-running grand jury probe of sex abuse by clergy. The two sisters gave detailed accounts to Abraham's office nearly three years ago.

But church officials say prosecutors never told them of this, even though at the time Dowling was pastor of St. Patrick, a large congregation just off Rittenhouse Square.

Nor, it seems, did the district attorney ever question Dowling.

Posted by kshaw at March 28, 2005 07:42 AM