Priest accused of molesting child in Elizabeth 50 years ago
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh began informing parishioners of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor nearly 11 years after its leaders learned of the accusation.
“For a decade, church officials have disclosed abuse reports only when they're forced to and have kept them secret as long as they possibly could,” said David Clohessy, executive director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “I strongly suspect the Pittsburgh Diocese realizes the secret is out so they have to act so they can seem like they're being responsible.”
SNAP raised an alert in June that a former priest in the Pittsburgh Diocese, the Rev. John P. Carroll, was accused in the Archdiocese of Boston of sexually abusing a minor while he was at St. Michael Parish in Elizabeth between 1962 to 1963.
Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik announced on Sunday that he warned members of St. Michael and the other parishes where Carroll worked of the allegation against him. The diocese was responding because the Boston Archdiocese notified church officials on Aug. 5 that it had taken steps to dismiss him from the priesthood.
Asked why the diocese waited to send out letters about Carroll, the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, a spokesman, said: “We're talking about something that happened 11 years ago. It was off our radar screen.”
Lengwin said that the Boston Archdiocese first notified Pittsburgh diocese leaders on Dec. 9, 2003. Boston church officials are handling the investigation.
At the time that the diocese was informed, Lengwin said the church considered child sexual abuse as a “moral defect,” as it did with alcoholism, rather than a disease.
“You can't say you made a mistake that you didn't understand fully,” Lengwin said. “I would say we learned how to do things better.”
Former Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl, now Archbishop of Washington, developed a no-tolerance policy here that was later adopted by Catholic bishops at their 2002 conference in Dallas.
About a year ago, the Pittsburgh diocese began a policy of informing all parishes where a priest accused of abuse worked.
In keeping with its own policies and that of Catholic bishops nationally, the Pittsburgh Diocese notified civil authorities of the allegation. Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said he could not comment until Monday.
“I urge anyone who has been abused by any person representing the church to notify civil authorities and to contact the diocese to obtain assistance with counseling to help with recovery from abuse,” Zubik wrote in a letter to Carroll's former parishes.
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, wrote in an email that Carroll has been restricted from ministry but would not elaborate.
Carroll worked in the Pittsburgh Diocese from 1962 to 1972, including his stint at St. Michael. He also worked at St. Isaac Jogues in Elrama, St. Margaret in Green Tree, St. Susanna in Penn Hills, St. Alphonsus in Springdale and St. Denis in Versailles, now called St. Patrick in McKeesport.
On Aug. 3, the diocese announced that Zubik had placed the Rev. John Fitzgerald, 66, the pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Conway, on administrative leave pending investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.
This year, the diocese disclosed that 22 victims had made complaints against nine Marianist brothers at the former North Catholic High School.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or [email protected].