Child sex abuse allegation against Pittsburgh priest 'has not been proven,' so he will retire
By Sheldon Ingram
March 22, 2017
PITTSBURGH — A priest in the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese will be allowed to retire after the Vatican was unable to prove that he sexually abused a child, the diocese said Wednesday.
The Rev. John P. Fitzgerald, 68, was most recently the pastor at Our Lady of Peace in Conway, Beaver County. He has been on leave since July 31, 2014, because of the abuse allegation.
"It could not be determined with certainty whether the abuse did or did not occur," the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said, according to the diocese.
The alleged incidents occurred in Allegheny and Lawrence counties in the late 1990s and was reported to the diocese in 2014.
Bishop David Zubik tells Pittsburgh's Action News 4, the diocese notified the district attorneys in those counties, while also convening an independent review board, made up of police officers, attorneys and psychologists.
"They heard the case. They interviewed everybody involved and said both people are believable so I took it to Rome," says Zubik.
Both the review board and the Vatican could not determine a definitive outcome during their separate inquiries and it's not determined if the five-member review board agreed unanimously or had different opinions about what happened," they found both individuals credible. That meant guilt wasn't assigned to Father Fitzgerald, nor was there innocence", says Zubik.
"Father Fitzgerald has maintained his innocence throughout. At the same time, the person who brought the allegation has maintained that the abuse did occur," the diocese said.
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Below is the full statement from the diocese.
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ruled that an accusation of child sexual abuse against the Rev. John P. Fitzgerald, 68, of the Diocese of Pittsburgh "has not been proven." It could not be determined with certainty whether the abuse did or did not occur.
In addition, the Congregation has directed Bishop David Zubik to take appropriate action that provides for the welfare of all parties involved, including the welfare of the public.
As a result, Fitzgerald has requested that he begin retirement. Zubik has granted his request. He will not exercise public ministry.
Fitzgerald, whose last assignment was pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Conway, Beaver County, has been on administrative leave since July 31, 2014, due to the allegation that he had abused a minor in the late 1990s. It is the only allegation against him ever brought to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Fitzgerald has maintained his innocence throughout. At the same time, the person who brought the allegation has maintained that the abuse did occur.
When the allegation was brought forward in 2014, diocesan officials turned it over to the district attorneys in Allegheny and Lawrence counties, where the abuse was said to have taken place. At the same time, the diocese issued a press release announcing the allegation against Fitzgerald and his removal from ministry, and urging anyone with information to come forward. No other allegations emerged.
The Independent Review Board, a group of experts who advise the bishop about allegations of sexual abuse, recommended that he forward the case to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh continues to urge anyone with information about abuse committed by any representative of the Church to call the Diocesan Assistance Coordinator at 1-888-808-1235 or the appropriate civil authorities. If the victim is currently a minor, call the Pennsylvania State Abuse Hotline at 1-800-932-0313.