Garfield Priest on Leave after Child Sex Abuse Allegation
By Ann Rodgers
April 17, 2012
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has placed the Rev. James Graham on administrative leave while it investigates an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.
Father Graham, 72, pastor of the St. Lawrence O'Toole parish in Garfield, was scheduled to retire on April 30. A letter announcing the allegation and the decision to place him on leave was read to parishioners at weekend Masses. The parish is scheduled to merge into a new parish, St. Maria Goretti, in June.
The allegation "involved a minor a number of years ago. Though the allegation concerns events from many years ago, the length of time makes no difference," Bishop David Zubik wrote to parishioners. "The allegation has been judged to have what we call a 'semblance of truth' -- that the timing and circumstances surrounding the allegation fit the facts that are known. It does not mean, however, that a definite judgment has been reached."
According to the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese, the allegation was made late last week. Father Graham was immediately placed on administrative leave and the district attorney's office was notified.
Father Lengwin, who just returned to part-time work after heart surgery, said he was checking to see which day the allegation was made to the diocese.
"There are no other complaints in this regard" in Father Graham's record, he said.
At this point, he said, diocesan officials are interviewing possible witnesses and will notify all the parishes where Father Graham has served to ask anyone who may have information to come forward.
Once that testimony has been gathered, it will be presented to the diocesan review board, a mostly lay group of experts on child sexual abuse and law enforcement.
The review board will make a formal recommendation to Bishop Zubik on whether Father Graham should be returned to or permanently removed from ministry.
Ann Rodgers: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416.