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Diocese denies coverup of priest

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh strenuously denies allegations that it has covered up past sexual and alcohol-related misconduct on the part of the priest charged in connection with the death of University of Pittsburgh football player Billy Gaines.

The diocese continued Wednesday to express its sadness at the death of the 19-year-old Maryland native, but said several of the allegations raised in the $75 million lawsuit filed by the Gaines family are false and damage the good name and credibility of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Gaines family filed the lawsuit last week against the Rev. Henry W. Krawczyk, who is accused of hosting a drunken, all-night party for Gaines and several of his teammates June 17-18 in the sanctuary of St. Anne Catholic Church in Homestead. Gaines was intoxicated when he slipped from a crawl space and fell through a church ceiling.

Krawczyk, who is on administrative leave and not permitted to celebrate the sacraments in public, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and providing alcohol to minors.

The Gaines family also has sued the diocese; the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Homestead; St. Anne Church; Our Lady of Joy Parish in Plum, where Krawczyk served in the 1980s; and others whom they believe took part in a conspiracy to conceal Krawczyk’s past.

“The lawsuit claims that a 40-year-old Vatican document mandated a cover-up by the Catholic Church, and the Diocese of Pittsburgh specifically, of alleged past misconduct of Father Krawczyk,” said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, diocesan spokesman. “The suit claims that this Vatican-imposed coverup allowed Father Krawczyk to continue in ministry and, thus, contributed to the death of an adult too young to drink.”

Lengwin said the 1962 Vatican document deals specifically with the ecclesiastical crime of a priest who solicits sex through the sacrament of Confession and, therefore, is irrelevant in the Gaines case because it doesn’t involve sex or the sacraments.

“The lawsuit alleges that the Diocese of Pittsburgh acted irresponsibly … in its appointment of Father Henry Krawczyk as pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in 1992 by engaging in a cover-up of past charges against him,” Lengwin said. “There was no such cover-up. The only admission of any misconduct at that time was in 1986, and there was no civil or criminal charges ever filed against him.”

“While the lawsuit raises the issue of sexual misconduct, no charge has ever been made to diocesan or civil authorities against Father Krawczyk involving sexual misconduct with a minor at any time in his priestly life,” Lengwin said.

The lawsuit states that although Krawczyk was parochial vicar at Our Lady of Joy Parish in Plum, he engaged in a series of instances of providing alcohol to minors and made “a sexual advance on a minor boy.”

Lengwin previously acknowledged that in 1986, Krawczyk was accused of providing alcohol to and making a sexual advance toward an 18-year-old college student.

Krawczyk admitted providing the alcohol but denied the sexual advance.

“This lawsuit implies a responsibility on the part of the Catholic Church to see that any priest who gets involved in any legal difficulty at any time be permanently barred from ministry,” Lengwin said. “This would hold the Church — and every priest — to a standard demanded of no other institution in society, and would violate essential human and civil rights.”


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