Philadelphia Archbishop to celebrate the funeral mass of sexually abusive priest sparks outrage

In a notice obtained by watchdog group Catholic4Change (C4C), Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez is scheduled to celebrate the funeral mass of Msgr. Phillip Dowling on Friday, February 4th at Holy Innocents Church in Philadelphia. Dowling, 92, ordained for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1956, died January 27, 2022, in his 17th year of serving a life of ‘prayer and penance’ for admittedly sexually abusing children. Dowling was named in the 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report and openly admitted to sexually abusing minors to an Inquirer reporter.

We echo the concern of Catholics4Change and believe that having the archbishop of a diocese, plagued with thousands of abuse cases, as the principal celebrant at this funeral mass sends a poor message, even a slap in the face, to victims of Dowling, all victims abuse within the diocese and to the faith community hurt by the endless scandal. We offer good riddance to a known abuser who escaped justice.

In a letter dated May 5, 2020, the Archbishop wrote, ‘Some of those most in need of our care and compassion are survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of Archdiocesan clergy. I deeply regret the pain and suffering of survivors and any decisions that failed to protect them. The pain and damage are profound.’

We hope that Archbishop Perez will heed his own message and decline to celebrate Dowling’s life. 

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

 (SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is

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