The Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Monday said it had suspended a former Northeast Philadelphia pastor to investigate a new claim of child sexual abuse, four months after church officials publicly had cleared the priest of another misconduct allegation.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput declared the priest, the Rev. Michael Chapman, suitable in May to return to active ministry. Chapman, 56, was preparing to resume his priestly duties when the archdiocese received a new accusation that Chapman had abused a minor approximately 30 years ago, the archdiocese announced.
Church officials immediately turned over the accusation to law enforcement and halted Chapman's return, according to Donna Farrell, a spokeswoman for the archbishop.
"Father Chapman had never actually returned to active public ministry, did not have access to children and was not residing in a parish at any time since the May 4th announcement," Farrell said.
News of his new suspension was announced this past weekend at Ascension of Our Lord Church in Kensington, where Chapman served between 2001 and 2011.
Chapman was among two dozen area priests placed on administrative leave last year while church officials re-examined past allegations of misconduct against them.
Officials have not disclosed the details of the accusations except to say they have ranged from child sexual abuse to so-called "boundary violations," that can include inappropriate comments, touching or conduct that could be considered grooming of abuse victims. The claims also involve conduct that typically cannot be prosecuted because it falls outside the state's criminal statute of limitations.
Chaput permanently removed seven priests from active ministry after finding the allegations credible. Six others, including Chapman, were restored. Another died before the investigation was completed and the rest are pending.
In July, the Rev. Andrew McCormick became the first priest on leave to be charged with criminal sex abuse. McCormick, the former pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Bridgeport, Montgomery County, is accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy at a Philadelphia rectory in 1997.