July 19th, 2011
07:56 AM ET
By the CNN Wire Staff
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) –The new leader of Philadelphia's Catholic community is geared up to cope with the sex abuse scandal rocking the archdiocese and promises to "find a way through it."
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, who takes the reins from Cardinal Justin Rigali as the new Philadelphia archbishop, says he's not intimidated by the challenges dropped on his plate.
"No bishop will solve any issues on his own - he needs everyone involved. This is not my problem, it's our problem," said Chaput, introduced on Tuesday as the huge region's new archbishop.
"We'll find a way through it, because we really do believe the church is the body of Christ."
Chaput was ordained a priest in 1970. He became a bishop at the age of 43 and has served as archbishop of Denver since 1997. A member of the Prairie Band Potowatami Nation, Chaput is the second Native American to be ordained a bishop in the United States and the first Native American archbishop.
Speaking at a news conference with Rigali in Philadelphia, Chaput said he hopes the church and the community will approach issues of sexual abuse and any future reparations with a combination of pastoral counseling and prudence.
The change comes five months after a Philadelphia grand jury report accused the archdiocese of failing to investigate claims of sexual abuse by priests against children. But Rigali stressed during the news conference that his resignation had nothing to do with the scandal.
"When bishops turn 75, they present their letter of resignation to the pope, and that's exactly what I did. In the meantime, by all means, we've had all of these problems which we are endeavoring to face and to resolve as best we possibly can ... so there's no particular relationship to my resignation," Rigali said.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said he felt Rigali tried to do what he thought was best for the church.
"I commend him for promptly removing over 20 priests with outstanding allegations of improper relations with minors ... I hope that Archbishop Chaput follows through on these initiatives," Williams said in a statement.
The grand jury report led to the Philadelphia district attorney's office criminally charging four Philadelphia priests and a parochial school teacher with raping and assaulting boys in their care. A former high-ranking archdiocese official was accused of allowing the abusive priests to have access to children.
All five pleaded not guilty to sexual abuse and conspiracy charges in April. Edward Avery and Charles Engelhardt were charged with assaulting a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia from 1998 to 1999. Bernard Shero, a teacher at the school, is charged with assaulting the same boy there in 2000. Avery was defrocked in 2006. James Brennan, another priest, is accused of assaulting a different boy, a 14-year-old, in 1996.
Monsignor William Lynn, who served as the secretary for clergy under then-Philadelphia Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the alleged assaults.
From 1992 until 2004, Lynn was responsible for investigating reports that priests had sexually abused children.
The grand jury found that Lynn, 60, endangered children, including the victims in these most recent cases, by knowingly allowing dangerous priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children.
In addition to the charges, the grand jury alleged that as many as 37 priests remained in ministry in Pennsylvania despite solid, credible allegations of abuse. Rigali had initially challenged that claim, but eventually 29 of them were placed on administrative leave and no further investigation was warranted on the remaining eight.
"I want to be clear: These administrative leaves are interim measures. They are not in any way final determinations or judgments," Rigali said in a statement in March.
In the months following the release of the grand jury report, Rigali, 76, who succeeded Bevilacqua in 2003, was named in several civil suits against the Philadelphia Archdiocese alleging sexual abuse.
This year's grand jury report is the city's second issued regarding priests' alleged sexual abuse in Philadelphia. The first grand jury report was released in 2003. A gag order imposed by a Philadelphia judge in the case remains in effect, barring all parties involved in the criminal case from talking to the media.
–CNN's Sarah Hoye and Hada Messia contributed to this report.
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