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  2 Greensburg Priests Barred Diocese Investigating 2 Others
Complaints against 2 Dismissed

By Ann Rodgers-Melnick
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania)
March 15, 2002

After finding old complaints of possible abuse in the files of six priests, Bishop Anthony Bosco of the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg has told two retired priests they can no longer engage in public ministry and two active priests will be called to the chancery for further investigation, diocesan officials said yesterday.

The two other cases, one involving an active priest, the other a retired priest, were determined to be unsubstantiated, said Angie Burrows, a spokesman for the diocese.

All of the allegations dated from the tenure of the late Bishop William Connare, who retired in 1987. None of the priests has been named by the diocese.

Diocesan officials said the written records were so unclear that they were initially uncertain whether any of them indicated sexual contact with a minor, said the Rev. Roger Statnick, vicar general of the diocese.

Officials who searched the records this week flagged anything that looked remotely as if it might refer to molestation of minors, he said.

"In one case that goes back into the 1960s, it was just one sentence," Statnick said.

Of the two unsubstantiated cases, "one was basically gossip and there was no way to even stretch it into being sexual in nature," Burrows said.

"In the second case, there was no evidence that it had been sexual misconduct with a minor."

For the retired priests, banning them from public ministry means primarily that they will no longer be permitted to help out at parishes on weekends, she said.

One of the priests, who is still in active ministry, had more than one complaint in his file, Statnick said.

According to The Official Catholic Directory, there are 151 priests in the Diocese of Greensburg, 38 of them retired or on leave and 12 of them working outside the diocese.

The diocese was founded in 1951 and Connare served as bishop from 1960 to 1987. The complaints were made between 1962 and the mid-1980s.

During Connare's final days as bishop, the Rev. Roger Trott, then serving at St. John the Baptist de la Salle Church in Delmont, was arrested and pleaded guilty to corrupting the morals of a minor for molesting a 13-year-old altar boy. He was treated at a psychiatric hospital for priests, sentenced to five years of probation and fined $10,000.

Bosco, who took the helm of the diocese while Trott was hospitalized, said he refused to allow him back in ministry.

According to Bosco, Trott asked permission to apply for priestly service outside the diocese. Bosco replied that if any bishop or religious superior contacted him for approval -- as church law required -- he would explain why Trott was removed and would not recommend the assignment.

"He was furious with me," Bosco recalled.

"Some of the institutions that were supposed to rehabilitate these priests gave a recommendation that never made sense -- to assign them somewhere where they don't come into contact with children. There is no place where they don't come into contact with children. If you assign them to an old folks home, the grandchildren come to visit."

In 1994, Bosco established a policy for responding to sexual misconduct complaints against clergy. It calls for a complaint to first go to Statnick. If he finds it credible, the case goes to a review board of four laypersons and a priest. The accused priest is removed from ministry and required to undergo psychiatric testing while other inquiries are made.

During his tenure, Bosco said, he has made financial settlements in two cases involving accusations of sexual abuse of minors that were never made public. One involved a priest who had moved to a ministry outside the diocese before the complaint was brought to Bosco. Bosco said he referred that complaint to the priest's current superior and the priest resigned from ministry.

The other involved a case of recovered memory, in which the victim claimed to have remembered the molestation years afterward. Bosco did not consider the accusation credible, but made an out-of-court settlement because attorneys said it would cost the diocese far more to win the case in court. That priest remained in ministry, he said.

Bosco would not give the amount of either settlement, but said that the total for the two was less than $100,000.

"We have dealt up front with anything that has been current," Statnick said. "With this purging of history, I hope we can put this behind us."

 
 

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