Former county priest accused of abuse

New Castle News
August 4, 2014

CONWAY —  A priest who served in Lawrence County has been placed on leave after a sexual abuse allegation.

Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik has put a suburban pastor on administrative leave after receiving an allegation of unspecified sexual abuse against the cleric dating to the late 1990s. The abuse is alleged to have occurred in both Lawrence and Allegheny counties.

Zubik says the church is providing the Rev. John Fitzgerald with temporary housing away from Our Lady of Peace Church in Conway, Beaver County, where he’s on administrative leave as pastor while church and law enforcement officials review the allegations.

Zubik didn’t detail the allegations, but says prosecutors in both counties have been notified. Anyone with any information is asked to come forward.

Zubik said in a statement yesterday that the priest “has denied committing any acts of sexual abuse.” He said if it is determined that Fitzgerald committed the abuse, the leave would become permanent. But if it is determined that the allegation is unfounded, “all that is possible will be done to restore Fr. Fitzgerald’s reputation and return him to ministry,” he said.

The 66-year-old priest can’t administer church sacraments, dress or otherwise identify himself as a priest while on leave.

“Removing Father Fitzgerald from ministry does not imply guilt,” Zubik wrote. “It is intended to safeguard the course of justice while preserving the rights of everyone involved, including both the person against whom an allegation has been made and the person who made the allegation.”


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