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Victim group calls for Zubik's resignation after priest sex abuse scandal

Wes Venteicher
| Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, 6:21 p.m.
Bishop David Zubik speaks during a press conference at the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Downtown on Aug. 14, 2018.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Bishop David Zubik speaks during a press conference at the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Downtown on Aug. 14, 2018.

A group of people who say they were sexually abused by Catholic priests called on Bishop David Zubik to resign Wednesday, taking issue with his claim that the Pittsburgh Diocese didn’t cover up decades of clergy sexual abuse detailed in a grand jury report.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, cited Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s claim that “it is clear that the cover-up occurred in the Pittsburgh Diocese along with every other diocese in Pennsylvania. The abuse occurred and it was enabled by this cover-up.”

Zubik said Tuesday there was no cover-up in a news conference he held shortly after Shapiro’s comment. Zubik apologized to victims.

“If Zubik can’t even admit wrongdoing, he very likely won’t stop wrongdoing,” SNAP Midwest Associate Leader Judy Jones said in a news release.

As director of the diocese’s Office of Clergy in the 1990s, Zubik heard many of the old and new allegations of abuse brought against priests and others in the church before then-Bishop Donald Wuerl made decisions on what to do about the allegations.

Absent Zubik’s stepping down, SNAP urged parishioners to stop donating to Zubik’s diocese, urging them to instead give to Catholic organizations that aren’t part of the church.

Diocese spokesman Rev. Nicholas Vaskov didn’t immediately provide a response to SNAP’s call for the resignation.

Zubik sent a letter Tuesday to all priests in the diocese to be read during Mass over the weekend, Vaskov said. The letter defends practices by the current clergy, saying it has taken steps to prevent the types of abuse that reportedly occurred with the greatest frequency from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Since then, the church has taken preventive steps including creating an independent review board consisting of prosecutors, psychotherapists, attorneys and parents of abuse victims to determine whether allegations are substantiated and priests and deacons should continue their ministry, according to the letter.

The letter outlines new steps the diocese plans to take such as hiring Shay Bilchik, a Georgetown University research professor with experience as a state prosecutor specializing in children’s issues, to review the diocese’s policies and practices related to child protection.

Vaskov said the results of Bilchik’s review will be made public.

The diocese is also hiring someone to monitor clergy who have been removed from the ministry after child abuse allegations. Vaskov said details have yet to be worked out for what the monitoring will involve or whether results of the monitoring will be made public.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Wes at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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