Wilkinsburg parish told of alleged abuse by former assistant pastor
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh waited six months after it received the first allegation of child sexual abuse involving one of its priests before notifying parishioners.
The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese, said it sent a letter on Friday to parishioners of St. James Church in Wilkinsburg because it received an allegation of sexual abuse involving the late Rev. John Wellinger, parochial vicar of the church, from the brother of the late victim on March 25. Lengwin said the diocese first received an allegation from the victim's sister in September.
“What changed is we had another person coming forth with an allegation — a brother and a sister,” Lengwin said.
Mike Manko, spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, confirmed the office received the information on Wellinger in September. He said it would be inappropriate for the office to comment on how the diocese communicated with its parishioners.
Wellinger served as parochial vicar, or assistant pastor, of St. James between 1981 and 1985.
The Rev. Warren Metzler, the pastor there, said he was not aware of any reports that Wellinger was involved in sexual abuse in his parish until after Wellinger's death in April 2011. He said he did not know that Wellinger was part of a $1.25 million settlement, involving 32 victims, that the diocese announced in 2007. Lengwin said the latest accusation about Wellinger is unrelated to the one from the settlement.
“I must be terribly naive,” Metzler said, noting that he was caught by surprise when the first cases of clergy abuse in the Pittsburgh diocese surfaced in 1988.
“They were dramatic and terrible, and all of us priests were stunned,” Metzler said.
Lengwin said that Wellinger also served at St. Wendelin's in Carrick, St. Athanasius in West View, St. Clare in Clairton, Our Lady of Grace in Scott, Holy Spirit in West Mifflin, St. Francis de Sales in McKees Rocks and St. George in Allentown.
Lengwin said Wellinger's frequent stops had nothing to do with any abuse allegation. He said the diocese first learned of an accusation involving Wellinger in September 1995. He was placed on a leave of absence for health reasons in June 2005 and never served in the ministry again.
This marks the third letter the diocese sent to alumni or parishes involving clergy. The two others involved Kenneth Ghastin, a Franciscan brother, and the Rev. Michael Ledoux, a Franciscan friar. Both cases stem from accusations made while the two held jobs out of state.
Asked why the diocese did not send the letter to the other parishes where Wellinger served, Lengwin responded, “If we find there's more going on here, we may send letters to other places.” Lengwin said the diocese began the policy in 2004 of sending letters to parishes and alumni of schools where an accused priest served. Since then, letters have gone out in about 10 cases.
He said one person accepted an offer of counseling as a result of the letter. The offer is on the diocese's website.
Lengwin said the diocese chose to be audited annually on its handling of the cases by the Independent Board of Review, made up mostly of former FBI agents, until last year, when it opted not to in a cost-cutting measure. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a set of procedures for dealing with the issue established by American bishops in 2002, recommends audits every three years.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- CMU software eases task of mining prostitution ads
- Gulls fleeing frozen Great Lakes fill skies over Pittsburgh’s Point
- Newsmaker: Ron Croushore
- New CEO eager to revitalize Pittsburgh International Airport
- Pittsburgh mayor denies ethics investigation into his ‘Undercover Boss’ performance
- Pa. Turnpike claims software fraud, wants $45M
- 2nd lawsuit filed against Gov. Wolf seeking reinstatement of open records director
- Goodell defends league, dodges difficult questions
- Charge against ex-Steeler dropped after community service
- Police say couple in Oakland murder-suicide had ‘troubled’ relationship
- Sting highlights demand for Pappy Van Winkle bourbon