Msgr. Philip Dowling – Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Msgr. Philip Dowling

Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Msgr. Philip Dowling Horowitz Law

Msgr. Philip Dowling Horowitz Law

Ordained: 1956

Retired (in good standing):  2004

Faculties suspended: 2005

Permanent restriction: 2005

Assigned as follows:

  • Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome)
  • Corpus Christi (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Roman Catholic High School (Philadelphia, PA)
  • St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Overbrook, PA)
  • Cardinal’s residence (in residence)
  • Cardinal’s Commission on Human Relations
  • St. Elizabeth (Philadelphia, PA)
  • St. Louis (Yeadon, PA)
  • St. Patrick (Philadelphia, PA)

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Monsignor Philip Dowling:

In March 2005, just as a scathing grand jury report of an investigation into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was being prepared for its eventual release, two sisters gave interviews to The Philadelphia Inquirer.  They told the reporter that they gave statements to the district attorney a few years before and said that they were both sexually abused by Msgr. Philip Dowling. At the time the article was published, Dowling was in active ministry at St. Patrick parish until only a few months before, when he retired as a priest in good standing.  He had spent much of his career working closely with Cardinal Krol, and even lived with at the Cardinal’s residence for several years. 

Dowling was assigned to Corpus Christi when the abuse began.  One of the sisters said that Dowling began abusing her as an 8 year old girl.  The abuse lasted for six years, usually when he was allowed to tuck the sisters in at night.  Her older sister said that she was 9 when the abuse started.

They say their mother even walked in on one incident and chased the priest from the family home where was an honored guest only moments before.  One of the sisters says she told a priest about the abuse in confession, but he offered no help except to absolve her of her supposed sin in the matter.  

Dowling was interviewed by the reporter.  He admitted that “he had repeatedly engaged in ‘inappropriate touching’ of one of the girls, but not the other.  He “admitted the touching was sexual. ‘It crossed the boundary…and I’m very sorry for the inappropriate acts and touches.’” He would later deny any touching of the girl’s genitals and said there was one incident when she was in her late teens.  He insisted it was borne of affection the he could not control. He again denied abusing the second sister in the second interview.

When The Inquirer contacted the Archdiocese for comment, the spokesperson claimed no one knew about the allegations – or any others against Dowling.  It suspended his faculties almost immediately after the media began calling.

Due to the very public nature of his admissions, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia no doubt felt a need to act quickly and avoid the internal review board process, which could take years.  Within days, Dowling agreed to surrend his remaining faculties, forgo a canonical trial that could result in his involuntary removal from the priesthood (laicization), and live a “supervised life of prayer and penance.”

Since 2005, Dowling has resided at Villa St. Joseph with other priests accused of misconduct who have accepted similar compromises.  The level of their daily supervision is unknown.

Dowling is now 89 years old.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Philadelphia now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims.  Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com today.