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Father William J. Porter removed from ministry after accusation of early 1980s sexual misconduct

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Diocese of Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly has removed a priest from ministry after being informed of the conclusion of an investigation by the Delaware State Police and the Delaware Attorney General’s Office concerning sexual misconduct involving a minor in the early 1980s.

Father William J. Porter, 71, is alleged to have committed the misconduct 38 years ago at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in New Castle when the accuser was a teenager. Father Porter has most recently been pastor at Holy Name of Jesus in Pocomoke, Md., where he has served since 2003.

In response to the allegations, the diocese said in a statement released July 25, officials notified the Delaware State Police and the Delaware Attorney General’s office. They have had it under investigation since the time it was reported in March, according to the statement.

Diocesan officials said they received notification July 19 from Delaware State Police that their investigation was complete because the conduct occurred outside of the statute of limitations.

Bishop Malooly removed Father Porter from ministry and suspended his faculties to exercise priestly ministries.

Father Porter is currently under investigation by the Wilmington Police Department for alleged similar conduct, according to the statement, which said the diocese will continue to cooperate fully with all civil authorities.

The Diocese of Wilmington encourages anyone who has been sexually abused by a member of the clergy or anyone else, to immediately notify local law enforcement authorities, according to the statement.

In addition to Holy Name of Jesus in Pocomoke, Father Porter, ordained in 1975, has served as pastor at St. Luke/St. Andrew in Ocean City, Md., from 1991 to 2003. He was a faculty member at St. Elizabeth High School in Wilmington from 1982 to 1991 and served on the faculty at Saint Mark’s High School in Wilmington from 1979 to 1982. Father Porter was an associate pastor at St. Catherine of Siena, Wilmington, from 1978 to 1979. He was also an assistant principal at St. Elizabeth High School from 1977-1978 and an associate pastor at St. Elizabeth Parish, Wilmington, from 1975 to 1977.

The statement said the Diocese of Wilmington is committed to protecting children and to providing support to survivors of sexual abuse.

In acknowledging the pain suffered by survivors of abuse, the statement said Bishop Malooly requests the faithful of the diocese to join him in praying for the healing of all who have been harmed by abuse, for the countless lives affected by such actions, and for the many priests of the Diocese of Wilmington who have been faithful to their vocation and the people they serve.

In April 2002, Wilmington diocese officials met with the Delaware attorney general and disclosed all reports of abuse received by the diocese, according to a 2018 statement from the diocese. In August 2002, the 10-member Diocesan Lay Review Board was formed to review allegations of sexual abuse made against priests, deacons or other church employees or volunteers and make recommendations regarding fitness for ministry of those accused. Allegations also are reported to law enforcement as required by Delaware and Maryland laws.

In 2006 the Diocese of Wilmington became one of the few dioceses to release to the public the names of all known diocesan clergy regarding whom there are admitted, corroborated or otherwise substantiated allegations of sexual abuse, according to the statement in 2018. For the last 10 years, that list of names has been posted on the diocesan website.

The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington was established in 1868 and includes 56 parishes, 18 missions and 36 schools serving the state of Delaware and the nine counties of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

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