Abuse allegation ruled inconclusive
March 27, 2017
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ruled that an accusation of child sexual abuse against Father John 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, Father Fitzgerald has requested that he begin retirement. Bishop Zubik has granted his request. He will not exercise public ministry.
Father 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. Father 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 news release announcing the allegation against Father 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 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.