Priest accused of molesting child in Elizabeth 50 years ago
Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, 2:36 p.m.
Updated 21 hours 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@example.com.
PA- Victims condemn Pittsburgh bishop for “11 yrs of secrecy”
For immediate release: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014
For 11 years, Pittsburgh Catholic officials hid the fact that Fr. James P. Carroll is a credibly accused child molester. Yesterday, they finally “came clean” about his crimes. But Pittsburgh church staff said nothing about their callous cover up.
We strongly suspect that Fr. Carroll has spent the past decade living among unsuspecting neighbors who see him as a charming, safe, “grandfatherly” figure. We hope he hasn’t assaulted more kids over these 11 years.
No matter how Catholic officials try to spin it, this is irresponsible and inexcusable. It’s a clear violation of the promises made by Catholic officials – in Pittsburgh and at the national level – to be “open” about clergy sex crimes. Even worse, Pittsburgh Catholic officials, by keeping silent about a potentially dangerous cleric, may have enabled him to hurt more kids.
Two months ago, we disclosed (at a news conference) that Fr. Carroll was a credibly accused child molester.
At that time, back in June, like they have done for years and still do, Pittsburgh Catholic officials said nothing.
Bishop David Zubik’s PR man claims that in 2003, he and his well-educated staff “considered child sexual abuse as a ‘moral defect,’ as it did with alcoholism, rather than a disease,” (according to the Tribune Review). That is insulting baloney.
In 2003, Zubik and other top Pittsburgh Catholic officials knew child sex abuse was a crime. They knew it was apt to be repeated. They knew that citizens have a duty to help police catch criminals. They knew that if they told the truth about Fr. Carroll, more victims might step forward and file charges and Fr. Carroll might be convicted and imprisoned. But they chose – for more than a decade – to stay silent and endanger kids.
Shame on every single current and former Pittsburgh diocesan staffer who knew about the allegations against Fr. Carroll and chose to protect him, not children.
And now, we beg every single person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Pittsburgh to call police, expose predators, protect kids and start healing.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)