Former Greensburg Central Catholic principal accused of abuse in Erie Diocese
A former Greensburg Central Catholic principal is one of more than 50 priests and laypeople accused by the Erie Diocese of various actions involving the abuse of children.
Diocese officials Friday did not divulge details of the claims against Denise Myers, 51, of Unity . No criminal charges have been filed against her.
Myers could not be reached for comment, and a family member declined to comment.
“Every person named on this list was credibly accused of actions that, in the diocese's judgment, disqualify that person from working with children,” the Erie Diocese said in a statement announcing changes to its Policy for the Protection of Children and Youth. “Such actions could include the use of child pornography, furnishing pornography to minors, corruption of minors, violating a child-protection policy, failure to prevent abuse that they knew to be happening, and — in some cases — direct physical sexual abuse or sexual assault of minors.”
Later Friday afternoon, Diocese of Erie spokeswoman Anne Marie Welsh told the Tribune-Review that incidents where Myers may have violated child-protection policies were not uncovered until after she left a job at Elk County Christian High School in 2001. The diocese declined to release the specific allegations against Myers.
“As you know, there is an ongoing statewide investigating grand jury reviewing these matters. According to the advice of its lawyers, the diocese cannot comment on the criminal culpability of any specific individual,” Welsh said.
“The diocese can confirm that it is aware of credible evidence independently gathered over the years by diocesan and independent investigative personnel indicating that Mrs. Denise J. Myers violated the child-protection policies and expectations applicable during her prior employment within the Erie Diocese, rendering her unsuitable for any future employment involving children in the Erie Diocese's judgment,” Welsh said.
“The full extent of her conduct was not known until after her separation from employment within the diocese,” Welsh added.
Bishop Lawrence Persico's announcement comes as a grand jury run by the state Attorney General's office investigates how the Erie diocese and five others in Pennsylvania, including Greensburg and Pittsburgh, have handled misconduct allegations against priests.
Erie Diocese officials said they vetted allegations against Myers and others through “secular legal proceedings, canon law proceedings, self-admission by the individual, or threshold evidence.”
Officials with the Greensburg Diocese did not offer any insight into the allegations against Myers, whom they fired in 2013 over reported financial irregularities.
“Her termination was based on the results of a forensic audit that was conducted by an outside and independent auditing firm, information reported by employees of the school and admitted violations of state law and diocesan policy by Ms. Myers,” the diocese said Friday in a statement.
The Greensburg Diocese hired Myers in 2001 after she worked as a teacher at the Elk County school, now Elk County Catholic High School, which is part of the Erie Diocese.
Myers worked as a teacher, assistant principal and principal at Greensburg Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School.
“At the time of her hiring, Ms. Myers had the clearances required by law in 2001,” Greensburg Diocese officials said.
Greensburg Diocese officials said they learned of allegations in the Erie Diocese after she was fired.
“Consistent with its policies regarding the protection of children and young adults, the Diocese of Greensburg immediately reported this information to law enforcement authorities in Westmoreland County and Elk County,” the statement said.
Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck originally said his office had received no reports regarding Myers. He later corrected that statement , saying his office received a referral in 2013 and passed it along to prosecutors in Elk County.
Tribune-Review staff writers Rich Cholodofsky, Paul Peirce and Renatta Signorini contributed to this report.