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Priest found unsuitable for ministry after sex abuse allegation in Chester County is substantiated

The allegation against the Rev. William E. Dean stemmed from his time at SS. Philip & James Parish in Exton in the late 1970s.

The administration office building for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on 17th Street in Philadelphia.
The administration office building for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on 17th Street in Philadelphia.Read moreMICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

A Catholic priest has been found unsuitable for ministry after a finding that he sexually abused a minor in the late 1970s in Chester County, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Friday.

The victim reported in October 2019 that the Rev. William E. Dean, now 70, had committed the abuse while serving at SS. Philip & James Parish in Exton.

The allegation was reported to the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program, which was set up in 2018 to financially compensate victims of clergy sex abuse whose claims are too old to be taken to court. It was then reported to law enforcement, the archdiocese said.

The Chester County District Attorney’s Office informed the archdiocese in January that no criminal charges would be filed because the statute of limitations had expired, authorities said.

The Archdiocesan Office of Investigation then conducted its own probe and forwarded the results to the Archdiocesan Professional Responsibilities Review Board, which shared its unanimous finding with Archbishop Nelson Pérez that the allegation of sexual abuse was substantiated and recommended that Dean was unsuitable for ministry.

Pérez accepted the recommendation. Dean’s case will now be forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican in keeping with procedure for the formal canonical process.

Dean has been removed from his residence at Camilla Hall, a retirement community for nuns in Malvern, where he had been serving as chaplain and living since 2012. He is now residing at an archdiocesan property where priests participate in a prayer and penance program, Ken Gavin, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, said by email.

In 2014, the archdiocese had received a report that Dean “may have engaged in inappropriate behavior with a minor" while at SS. Philip & James, the archdiocese said in its statement. The alleged victim did not wish to talk even after being contacted by the archdiocese multiple times.

Gavin said he did not have information as to whether the 2014 complaint involved the same victim who made the 2019 complaint.

After the Archdiocesan Office of Investigation forwarded the results of its investigation in the 2014 complaint to the review board, the board found that Dean had violated “the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries, the statement said. The board and then-Archbishop Charles Chaput agreed at that time that Dean could remain in ministry, but only in a limited capacity as chaplain at Camilla Hall. (Chaput retired in February.)

Dean served at various parishes, schools, and offices in Chester County and Philadelphia. He was declared legally blind in 2001 and had not been assigned to a parish since 2012, the statement said.