Three Priests Charged with Sex Abuse

Associated Press
November 11, 1988

A prosecutor has filed sexual abuse charges against three Roman Catholic priests for allegedly molesting two brothers who were altar boys, and accused the church of foot-dragging during the investigation.

"It was not the spirit of cooperation we would like to see," Washington County District Attorney John Pettit said Thursday, calling it "minimal at best."

Pittsburgh Bishop Donald W. Wuerl denied the allegation, saying, "I think the diocese has made every effort to be cooperative." Wuerl heads the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, which oversees Washington County.

Pettit charged the Rev. Richard F. Zula, 47, former pastor at Sts. Mary and Ann Church in Marianna; the Rev. Robert Wolk, a former paster and diocesan assistant chancellor of St. Thomas More Church in the Pittsburgh suburb of Bethel Park; and the Rev. Francis Pucci, former pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Washington. All three men have been relieved of their pastoral duties.

In more than 150 counts, Pettit alleged that the priests sexually abused the two boys from 1981 to 1987. The homosexual acts allegedly took place in a barn, a church basement, a parked car and at a mountain resort.

Pettit said investigators do not believe the three priests acted in concert, although Zula and Pucci were charged with one count each of conspiracy because Pucci allegedly knew of Zula's intentions when he let Zula use his bedroom at a parish home to have sex with one of the youths.

Some of the incidents involved whips, chains, drugs and alcohol, Pettit said.

The alleged victims are brothers, now ages 17 and 19, who were altar boys at St. Thomas More and moved from Wolk's parish to Zula's in 1982, authorities said.

Pettit said one of the priests, whom he did not name, may have been involved in similar incidents in Allegheny and Somerset Counties and in Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Canada. Four other youths and an unidentified adult who is not a priest may also have been involved, he said.

"I don't want this to be misinterpreted as a witch hunt," Pettit said. "But we would be sticking our heads in the sand to believe these are the only three cases."

Zula, 47, was charged with 132 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and two counts of corrupting minors.

Wolk, 48, was charged with 22 counts. He was previously charged in Allegheny County with eight counts of sex-related crimes involving the same boys.

The only other charge against Pucci was one count of indecent assault.

Pucci and Wolk are undergoing psychiatric treatment for sex disorders at St. Luke's Institute in Suitland, Md., and Zula is living with his family in Westmoreland County.


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