Pastor Asked to Step down over Alleged Abuse

By Michael Crist
The Daily Local
July 4, 2006

Allegations of sexual abuse purportedly committed about 30 years ago have caught up with a local pastor.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Monday that after a preliminary investigation, the Rev. John F. Hummell, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Oxford, has been asked to step down from his ministry effective immediately.

"This was a very emotional announcement. It's a very difficult time for the parish and I think people are reeling," said Donna Farrell, director of communications for the Archdiocese. "It's a very painful time for the parish, as well as the Archdiocese."

According to a release, the Archdiocese received an allegation in October 2005 that Hummell had sexually abused a minor in the mid-1970s, when he was a teacher at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia. It was the only allegation of sexual abuse of a minor received by officials regarding Hummell.

Farrell said the Archdiocese does not discuss specifics of a case, "mostly out of respect for the victim."

She did say that the investigation found "patterns of behavior that would be considered sexual abuse" under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which was approved by the U.S. bishops in 2002.

According to the Archdiocese, however, Hummell has denied the allegations.

Announcements of Hummell's dismissal were first made to parishioners after Masses this weekend by Chester County vicar the Rev. Monsignor James McDonough, Farrell said.

Calls to parish officers went unanswered Monday afternoon.

Cardinal Justin Rigali has appointed the Rev. David E. Diamond, academic dean of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, as the parochial administrator of Sacred Heart Parish.

Hummell's removal comes about 10 months after the nation's longest-running grand jury probe into abuse by priests, which documented assaults on minors by more than 60 priests since 1967, and alleged that former archbishops Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and Cardinal John Krol covered up the abuse.

Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham convened the grand jury investigation in April 2002 amid a nationwide scandal following the disclosure of widespread abuse in the Boston archdiocese.

In the Philadelphia area, church officials, at the time, said 44 priests had been "credibly" accused of sexual assaults since the 1950s.

State laws, including legal time limits, prevented prosecutors from filing charges in any of these cases, as well as numerous others, the report said.

The grand jury urged that Pennsylvania abolish its statute of limitations for sexual offenses against children, expand the offense of child endangerment to include caretakers and supervisors, and allow unincorporated associations to be subject to criminal prosecution just as corporations are.

Chester County District Attorney Joe Carroll said he did not know anything about the Hummell case, adding that if the alleged abuse happened outside of the county, there would be nothing for him to investigate.

"Over the last six months, (the Archdiocese) has been pretty good notifying me of what's happening with priests serving in Chester County," Carroll said. "I'm surprised I haven't heard about this."

He added that statutes of limitation are an impediment in all cases.

"It's always frustrating," Carroll said. "It's not any different for these cases as it is any other offense."

Regardless, the incident is another black eye for the Archdiocese.

"It certainly has been painful," Farrell said. "When things happen like this, it is hard."

The Archdiocese claims Hummell will not be able to function as a priest anywhere for the time being. Cardinal Rigali must now inform the Holy See and request authorization to begin a formal process under Canon Law.

"The Holy See will decide what the next step will be," Farrell said.

Ordained in 1965, Hummell has served in the following parishes and schools: St. Cecilia, Coatesville; Ss. Simon and Jude, West Chester; Corpus Christi, Philadelphia; Roman Catholic High School, Philadelphia; Bishop McDevitt High School, Wyncote; St. Gabriel, Norwood; St. Callistus, Philadelphia; St. Dominic, Philadelphia; and St. Joseph's University as an adjunct faculty member in the physics department.

While in the education apostolate, Hummell lived at the parishes of St. Aloysius, Philadelphia; St. Joseph, Cheltenham; Epiphany of Our Lord, Philadelphia; St. Joseph, Ambler; Seven Dolors, Wyndmoor; and St. John of the Cross, Roslyn.

If someone needs assistance or wishes to talk about this situation, the Archdiocese is urging them to contact the Victim Assistance Program for the Archdiocese at 1-888-800-8780.

To contact staff writer Michael Crist, send an e-mail to


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