Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Thursday that he hoped to complete within two months an Archdiocese of Philadelphia review of nearly two dozen Catholic priests suspended last year over past accusations of sexual abuse or misconduct around children.
"Our ability to act on these cases has been limited by a number of stubborn legal and practical factors," Chaput wrote in his weekly newsletter. "But some of these cases are very near conclusion. My hope is that most will be completed and announced over the next eight weeks."
The archbishop did not elaborate. Archdiocesan officials have steadfastly declined to discuss the cases.
Chaput's remarks came a year to the day after his predecessor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, ordered 21 priests removed from active ministry while church officials reexamined complaints against them.
Six other priests were similarly placed on administrative leave in the weeks before and after that announcement.
Rigali acted after a Philadelphia grand jury report accused the archdiocese of allowing dozens of priests to remain in ministry despite credible allegations of abuse or misconduct. The grand report identified only three of the accused priests.
The cardinal also hired a former sex-crimes prosecutor to oversee the internal investigations and make recommendations about each priest's suitability for ministry.
The archdiocese has never disclosed details of the accusations except to say they range from sexual abuse to "boundary issues" such as giving presents, talking about sex, or sharing pornography with minors.
Sources told The Inquirer last week that church officials pledged in January that at least some of the cases would be resolved by the first week of March, but that deadline passed without action.
Chaput, who arrived in September, has been reluctant to discuss the matter, saying he needed more time to review it.
In his weekly newsletter, he wrote that the lack of resolution in the cases "remains a source of great frustration for our priests, our people, and for me."
He also wrote: "Justice requires a resolution of these men's circumstances."