Investigation Continues after Beaver Co. Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse
By Lynne Hayes-Freeland
August 4, 2014
Over the weekend, parishioners of Our Lad of Peace in Conway learned their pastor, Rev. John Fitzgerald, was being placed on administrative leave.
It’s because of an ongoing investigation into allegations he sexually abused a minor, almost 20 years ago.
“An allegation had been brought against him, it’s the only allegation, one person and he was removed from ministry temporarily,” said Fr. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese.
That means Fr. Fitzgerald can not wear clerical air or identify himself as a priest as long as he investigation is ongoing. He has denied that the abuse took place.
The diocese is not saying where it happened, but has asked both the Lawrence County and Allegheny County Distrcit Attorneys to investigate.
Fr. Fitzgerald was affiliated with a number of churches throughout the Pittsburgh area. But during the 1990s, which is the focus of the investigation, he was the chaplain at Pittsburgh International Airport.
At that time, there were daily masses held at the airport chapel, then weekly until services were phased out altogether. The diocese was responsible for each service. What isn’t clear is where the alleged abuse happened and whether Fitzgerald was serving as a church pastor, chaplain or in some other capacity at the time of the incidents.
“If it would turn out to be false, then we would try to restore him and his good name to him,” Lengwin said. “But in the meantime, our policy and the policies of the bishop are that he should be removed from his parish.”
That will leave Our Lady of Peace Parish with a lot of unanswered questions until the investigation is completed.