Troubled Record a Priest's Behavior Deserved Closer Scrutiny

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
September 29, 2003

It is troubling to learn that the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese didn't keep more careful records, if not a closer eye, on the Rev. Henry Krawczyk after receiving a second complaint that he'd served alcohol to minors.

Granted, the last complaint came 11 years ago and although the diocese said Krawczyk denied the 1992 allegation, it also said he had admitted to a similar one in 1986.

With the first complaint as a backdrop, the second should have brought him under serious scrutiny. Whether that would have averted tragedy is impossible to say.

But Krawczyk, who is on administrative leave, now faces criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter, not just for allegedly opening his bar to a group of underage University of Pittsburgh students, but for the June death of Billy Gaines. The 19-year-old Pitt football player fell through a Homestead church roof after a barbecue at Krawczyk's rectory where the priest allegedly served drinks to Gaines and his friends.

The Pittsburgh diocese has been forthcoming about both previous instances in which it received complaints that Krawczyk provided alcohol to youth.

After the 1986 complaint, Krawczyk saw a psychiatrist for counseling and was permitted to continue his ministry, based on the psychiatrist's recommendation, the diocese said.

Church records indicate Krawczyk denied a subsequent complaint in 1992, but a diocesan spokesman said the records don't show what was done to further investigate the matter.

That's unfortunate. It's possible that diocesan officials did follow up, but failed to put their findings in writing. It's also possible that the complaint slipped through the cracks, amid other concerns that confronted the diocese at the time due to a massive reorganization that dissolved 163 of its 333 parishes.

Whatever the case, it's a reminder that allegations of any serious misconduct toward minors involving clergy -- of any denomination -- must be investigated not just by the church but, when complaints warrant, by civil authorities. Parents who fail to report serious infractions of trust, much less suspected criminal wrongdoing, must bear part of the blame.

The Pittsburgh diocese, to its credit, has been held up nationally as a model for the "zero tolerance" policy espoused by Bishop Donald W. Wuerl long before the national sex abuse scandals broke.

If it doesn't already, the diocese needs to take a similarly hard line toward priests accused of other corrupting conduct with minors.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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