|Catholic Pastor Accused of Child Sexual Abuse
By Ann Rodgers
June 18, 2009
A Catholic pastor has been placed on leave from a Charleroi parish due to an accusation that he sexually abused a minor more than a decade ago.
The Rev. David Dzermejko, 61, "was placed on administrative leave because of an allegation that we received and deemed to have some semblance of truth," said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
He declined to give any details of the allegation or the person who made it, other than to say that "it does not involve Mary Mother of the Church parish" in Charleroi, where he has served for 18 years.
Father Dzermejko was called to diocesan headquarters Monday, within 48 hours after the allegation was made, he said. He was placed on administrative leave and a letter was mailed to parishioners that day, Father Lengwin said.
"We will have more to say once we have looked into this matter further," he said. "We are following our policy."
That policy is to notify the district attorney, even if the alleged offense appears to be beyond the statute of limitations, and to gather evidence for a diocesan review board consisting of primarily of lay experts on child sexual abuse. That board will eventually advise Bishop David Zubik about whether it believes there is enough evidence to permanently remove the priest from ministry or whether there is no substance to the allegation and he should be returned to ministry.
The district attorney's offices in both Allegheny and Washington counties yesterday said they knew nothing about the situation and had not been contacted by the diocese.
Father Dzermejko was ordained in 1974 and served as a parochial vicar at Most Blessed Sacrament in Natrona Heights from 1974-79, St. Teresa of Avila in Perrysville from 1979-84, St. Susanna in Penn Hills from 1994-91, and St. Jerome in Charleroi from 1991-92. In 1992, St. Jerome merged into the newly created Mary Mother of the Church, and he continued there, becoming pastor in 1999.
"He is much loved there. It's very unusual to spend 18 years in one place," Father Lengwin said.
He has not resigned from the parish or been formally removed, Father Lengwin said. The diocese regards administrative leave as a measure to protect all parties while an allegation is investigated.
Ann Rodgers can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1416.
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