Greensburg diocesan priest absolved of abuse, takes leave of absence
The Catholic Diocese of Greensburg said its investigation into child sex abuse allegations lodged against a priest who served churches in West Newton and Herminie found the claims to be unsubstantiated, but the priest has resigned his pastorates and taken a leave of absence.
Bishop Edward C. Malesic announced Friday that its findings on the Rev. Joseph Bonafed were the result of a six-month investigation. Bonafed was suspended in August 2018 after the diocese received an allegation of child sex abuse dating back to 1990 — two years before he was ordained.
Bonafed had been the priest at Saint Edward’s Parish in Herminie and Holy Family Parish in West Newton.
He did not return a phone call seeking comment.
After Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck did not file charges against Bonafed, the diocese began its investigation. Peck said Friday his office’s investigation was concluded earlier this year.
Peck said his office received calls from Bonafed’s parishioners who were interested in making sure that the investigation was fair.
One of those parishioners, Chris DeCarlo-Parrendo, reacted angrily to the diocese’s investigation and its outcome.
“He put his life into his vocation and is no longer able to serve the Lord the way he was called. I think that’s a crime,” she said.
DeCarlo-Parrendo of Murrysville was a parishioner of Bonafed’s when he was pastor of St. Mary Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Export and St. John Baptist de La Salle Parish in Delmont from 2012 to 2017.
When he was assigned to St. Edward’s and Holy Family in 2017, DeCarlo-Parrendo and other parishioners regularly went to hear him preach there.
She said his departure from the ministry has caused a crisis of faith for her.
“I’m really disillusioned by everything I’ve seen in the last year,” she said. “Everything I grew up with, everything I believed in, everything I was taught from the time I was a toddler has been shattered. This entire process has shattered me emotionally and put my faith to the test.”
DeCarlo-Parrendo said she believes the investigation was overly long and, ultimately, unfair to Bonafed.
“I think we have a whole new variety of victims because we not only have the victims who truly were abused … but now we have a whole new slew of victims in the falsely-accused,” she said. “We’ve got to look at that, too.”
While investigating the child sexual abuse allegations, the diocese said additional claims relating to inappropriate conduct in the workplace were reported and investigated.
A diocesan review board heard details of the canonical investigation regarding child sexual abuse and advised the bishop that the allegations were unsubstantiated, the diocese said. This group of advisers included lay experts and one member of the clergy.
Details of the investigation were presented to two other independent boards. Each unanimously recommended to the bishop that Bonafed not return to his pastorates because of the alleged inappropriate conduct in the workplace.
After discussing the matter with his canonical advocate, Bonafed resigned from his pastorates, the diocese said.
Former parishioner Arlene Bell of Delmont said the diocese is losing a good priest.
“This priest would pack any church that he was ever pastor at — overflowing seats — and no one believed (the original allegation),” Bell said. “If any man deserves to be a priest, it’s Father Joe.”
“This move is not going to put more people in the churches on Saturdays and Sundays,” DeCarlo-Parrendo said. “It’s not just me — there are a lot of us who are heartbroken because Father Joe gave the message that kept us coming back every week.”