Former Pittsburgh diocese priest, Catholic schools leader found guilty of sexually abusing altar boy, 10
An Allegheny County judge on Friday found a former priest and school superintendent of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh guilty of several counts of child sex abuse related to an incident involving an altar boy 18 years ago.
Hugh Lang, 89 — who retired from serving as an active priest in 2006 and was placed on leave last year — maintains his innocence. He insists that nothing inappropriate ever happened, his attorney, J. Kerrington Lewis, told the Tribune-Review a few hours after the judge delivered the verdicts.
“I’m very disappointed, because our facts and our witnesses and everybody proved that it didn’t happen on the dates that (the victim) said it did,” Lewis said. “Father Lang was a principal, the superintendent of schools, he’s never had a (prior) allegation, no complaints. I know this man is innocent.”
Following a two-day, non-jury trial at Lang’s request, Judge Mark V. Tranquilli ruled Friday afternoon that Lang was guilty of five misdemeanor counts related to child sexual abuse: including corruption of a minor, indecent exposure, indecent assault of a child under 13, and a felony charge of criminal communication with a minor.
The judge found Lang not guilty on two other felony counts: aggravated indecent assault of a child under 13, and viewing sexual content involving a minor via a computer.
Allegheny County District Attorney’s spokesman Mike Manko declined to comment on the case.
The incident that spurred the charges dates to summer 2001, when Lang was a priest at St. Therese in Munhall.
The victim was 10 years old.
The victim told police the abuse happened during alter server training, during which Lang pulled him away from the other boys and took him to a room in the basement of St. Therese, a criminal complaint said. The accuser told police Lang called him a troublemaker and told him to take off his clothes, according to the complaint. Lang then allegedly took a Polaroid photo and told the victim he would show the photo to others if the boy didn’t behave.
Police said Lang then molested the child and forced him to perform a sex act.
Lang has been on administrative leave and prohibited from representing himself as a priest since August 2018, when the diocese says it first learned of the allegation. In late January, Allegheny County Police arrested Lang and charged him with child sexual abuse.
The diocese “respects the criminal justice system and recognizes today’s verdict, while acknowledging that Father Hugh Lang has maintained his innocence and has the right to appeal this decision,” diocesan spokeswoman Ellen Mady said Friday night by email.
The church has not yet completed its internal investigation into the allegations against Lang.
Lang is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Tranquilli on Feb. 6.
“The diocese will await the outcome of all criminal court proceedings before moving forward with the canonical process regarding his future as a priest,” Mady said. “We continue to pray for everyone involved in this case and for justice to prevail.”
Reports of child sexual abuse can be made via the state’s PA Childline hotline at 1-800-932-0313 or the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Office for Victim Assistance at 1-888-808-1235.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter .