Local Priest Placed on Leave Amidst Sexual Abuse Allegations
April 17, 2012
A local priest has been placed on leave because of an investigation into accusations of sexual abuse against a minor over 40 years ago.
Officials said Bishop David Zubik placed Father James Graham, 72, of the Saint Lawrence O’Toole parish in Garfield, on administrative leave. A letter was read to parishioners announcing the decision at all weekend masses.
Father Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said the allegation was brought to the diocese’s attention last Thursday by a family member of someone who recently died. Lengwin said despite the alleged victim being dead, they have to investigate.
“It's always upsetting because this isnt the first one and it brings up memories of other ones," Lengwin said. "You always hope and pray thats it's the end and no other child has been abused. When something like this comes up, it is troubling.”
Officials said the district attorney was notified and church officials are working to interview potential witnesses and notify other parishes.
Graham, who has been in the diocese since 1966, started his career in Garfield, worked at churches in Pleasant Hills and Monroeville and is now back working in Garfield. Lengwin said Graham was two weeks away from retiring.
Bishop Zubik released the following statement Tuesday: "Though the allegation concerns events from many years ago, the length of time makes no difference. The allegation has been judged to have what we describe as a "semblance of truth" - that the timing and circumstances surrounding the allegation fit the facts that are known."
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said Tuesday that Bishop Zubik should visit each parish Graham worked at, as well as contact proper law enforcement officials.