Former priest accused of sex abuse was supportive of parishioners


STEPHEN HUBA | Friday, July 28, 2017

On Sept. 21, 2016, Holy Family Catholic Church in West Newton became a parish without a pastor.

Members of the large parish weren’t quite sure why the Rev. John T. Sweeney was no longer there. Some thought he had retired — he was, at 74, at the normal retirement age for Catholic priests. Others thought that he was taking a medical leave.

But, as disclosed by the Diocese of Greensburg on Monday, the real reason for Sweeney’s abrupt departure was an allegation of sexual abuse dating back 25 years from a parish in another part of the county.

To a person, parishioners at Holy Family, Sweeney’s last pastoral assignment, confessed to being “shocked” at the allegations. They described him as an attentive pastor who served the congregation faithfully for eight years, until his removal in September.

They remember him as a man who enjoyed photography, tinkering with mechanical things in his basement workshop and eating at Gary’s Chuck Wagon in downtown West Newton.

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