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Pa. archdiocese hires prosecutor's child protection leader

By Dave Warner

Philadelphia (Reuters) - The beleaguered Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Thursday named a new head of child protection, hiring her away from the prosecutor's office pursuing charges in a spiraling priest sex abuse case.

Leslie Davila will lead the Office of Child and Youth Protection, the archdiocese announced.

Until now, Davila had been victim assistance coordinator for the Philadelphia District Attorney, responsible for protecting young people and overseeing efforts to heal those sexually abused as minors.

The prosecutor's office oversaw a grand jury that earlier this year issued a scathing report on how the church has handled the scandal.

The grand jury had identified 37 cases of abuse and inappropriate behavior, and the investigation resulted in criminal charges against four priests and a school church teacher.

The archdiocese has since put 21 priests on administrative leave.

Davila's hiring met with criticism from two of the lawyers who have filed a half dozen civil lawsuits against the church as the scandal unfolded.

Attorney Marcie Hamilton argued that the church needs an outside, independent person to oversee child protection rather than an employee who will always meet the needs of the church, not necessarily the needs of those who are abused.

"They keep trying to do it in house," said Hamilton. "They can't do it on their own."

Attorney Jeff Anderson, also handling lawsuits against the church, echoed those thoughts.

"They always keep control," Anderson said.

In making the announcement, Cardinal Justin Rigali, who has himself been named as a defendant in the lawsuits, said of Davila, "With her assistance, the archdiocese will build upon our services to victims and continue striving to protect our young people and create a safe environment in which they can grow and flourish."

Davila has degrees from both La Salle and St. Joseph's universities in Philadelphia.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)

(This article has been modified to correct the description of cases in fifth paragraph)

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