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Pittsburgh Diocese sends out another warning on cleric

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 12:15 a.m.

As new Pope Francis I calls for a tougher stance in addressing sexual allegations against priests, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh plans to send its third letter this year warning of accusations against a cleric who once served in Pittsburgh.

“We're looking at that right now,” the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman of the diocese, said Sunday. “We have an allegation. I can go that far.”

Lengwin would not give details of what the letter will say, except that the victim was a male from a parish, not a school. He would not identify the priest allegedly involved.

“I wouldn't want to say anything until people from the parish receive a letter,” he said.

Mike Ference, 61, of Clairton, a self-described advocate for the victims and families of clergy child abuse, said the letter from Bishop David Zubik will refer to the late Rev. John Wellinger.

Ference said family members of the late victim alerted him of the diocese's intention to send the letter.

“Wellinger's shenanigans were common knowledge,” Ference said.

He said Wellinger served at St. Wendelin and St. George churches in Pittsburgh, St. Athanasius Church in West View, St. James Church in Wilkinsburg, St. Clare Church in Clairton, Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin and St. Philip Church in Crafton.

Lengwin could not confirm where Wellinger worked.

Wellinger was named in a lawsuit that led to a $1.25 million settlement that the diocese paid to 32 victims of child sex abuse by local clergy. The settlement was reached in 2007. The offense citing Wellinger happened 1989, the suit said.

Pope Francis I urged the Vatican on Friday to move quickly on sex abuse cases and punish priests who harm children.

The diocese sent letters last month to alumni of Serra Catholic High School in McKeesport about Kenneth Ghastin, a Franciscan brother who taught at Serra Catholic from 1983 to 1991. The sexual allegation did not concern his time locally but rather when he was out of state.

In January, the diocese sent letters to parishes about the Rev. Michael Ledoux, a Franciscan friar. Ledoux was pastor of St. Pamphilus in Beechview from 1993 to 1995, headmaster of Serra Catholic from 1995 to 2000 and adjunct professor at Duquesne University from 1997 to 2000. The Pittsburgh Diocese was reacting to an allegation that he had abused a teenage boy in New Hampshire during the 1980s.

Lengwin said diocesan policy calls for sending warning letters involving allegations of sexual abuse against a cleric regardless of where the alleged offense occurred.

Staff writer Bill Vidonic contributed to this report. Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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