Pittsburgh diocese suspends Beaver County priest during sex-abuse investigation
A Beaver County priest who once served as chaplain at Pittsburgh International Airport and an Air National Guard station has been placed on administrative leave while authorities investigate allegations that he sexually abused a child in the late 1990s.
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said on Sunday it reported the accusations against the Rev. John “Jack” Fitzgerald, 66, pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Conway, to the district attorneys of Allegheny and Lawrence counties, where the incidents allegedly took place.
Fitzgerald denied committing any acts of sexual abuse, the diocese said. He cannot administer the sacraments, dress in clerical attire or identify himself as a priest while he is on leave. The diocese placed him in a temporary residence, and he could not be reached.
“If a determination is made that Father Fitzgerald did what he is accused of, those restrictions will become permanent,” Bishop David Zubik wrote in a letter read to all Masses at Our Lady of Peace this weekend. “If it is determined that the allegation is unfounded, all that is possible will be done to restore Father Fitzgerald's reputation and return him to ministry.”
The Rev. Ron Lengwin, diocesan spokesman, said only one person accused Fitzgerald of abuse. Lengwin declined to comment on any specifics of the accusations.
Fitzgerald was the chaplain at Pittsburgh International Airport for 15 years until stepping down in 2009. He was chaplain to the Air National Guard's 171st Air Refueling Wing in Moon from 1986 to 2010. He served as a parochial vicar at seven parishes from the 1970s to 1991; he was also assigned to St. Anthony in Bessemer, Lawrence County from 1991 to 1995 until becoming a part-time priest with St. John Neumann in Franklin Park. He has been pastor at Our Lady of Peace since 2009.
Airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny declined to comment, referring questions to the diocese.
Zubik urged anyone with information to contact the diocese or civil authorities.
Mike Manko, spokesman for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala's office, said authorities will review the information the diocese provided to determine what course of action is appropriate.
Sunday's bulletin for Our Lady of Peace noted that retired priest the Rev. Gene Lauer will celebrate Masses at the parish through Aug. 13 but makes no mention of Fitzgerald's leave.
The allegations occur amid one of the largest sex abuse scandals in the diocese's history. It is investigating allegations of abuse involving at least 22 former North Catholic High School students going back to the 1940s.
The Vatican said in May that it had defrocked 848 priests who raped or molested children and sanctioned 2,572 with lesser penalties during the past decade.
Staff writer Matthew Santoni contributed. Chris Fleisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins’ Crosby details his mumps experience
- Starkey: Pederson had to go at Pitt
- Steelers, young and old, thirst for opportunity to reach the postseason
- Pederson’s 2nd tenure as the athletic director at Pitt comes to abrupt end
- Erie man charged with 1990 slaying of Virginia Beach woman
- QB Smith is chief concern for Steelers’ defense
- Armstrong man dies in single-vehicle crash
- Demolition project at Oliver’s Pourhouse in Greensburg moves ahead
- Chryst returns home, named football coach at Wisconsin
- Developer reveals Buncher plans for 400 Strip District apartments, townhomes
- Judge dismisses littering charge against City Council president Kraus