Diocese Removes 1 Priest 'For Life'

By Matthew Junker
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
April 23, 2002

The Catholic Diocese of Greensburg said Monday it has removed from the priesthood "for life" one of three active priests now on leave because of allegations of sexual abuse of boys.

"These are serious matters and they can't be allowed to continue," Diocese Vicar General Rev. Roger Statnick said at a news conference yesterday. Statnick said the allegations are 18 years old.

In compliance with diocese policy, Statnick refused to identify the priest. However, he did say the priest was serving as a chaplain until recently.

In the past, the diocese has said the Rev. Maj. Roger A. Sinclair had been with the military as a chaplain and was returned to the diocese and placed on leave.

A spokeswoman for the Air Force Reserve confirmed that Sinclair had been returned to his diocese while an investigation was being conducted. She said Sinclair was not full-time in the service.

Statnick said the priest is still determining whether he should resign from the priesthood.

"These are questions that remain to be answered. I told him he didn't need to answer the questions all at once. This is very devastating for him," said Statnick.

A five-member diocese review board, appointed by Bishop Anthony G. Bosco, met earlier this month and recommended that the priest be removed.

The Greensburg diocese began its own investigation into old complaints of sexual abuse in priests' files after the January trial of John Geoghan, a former Boston priest accused of abuse by more than 130 people.

Twelve cardinals of the U.S. Catholic church will meet with Pope John Paul II in Rome today to discuss the crisis in the church here.

While other locations in the Roman Catholic Church have paid out millions to settle claims of sexual abuse, Statnick said yesterday the Greensburg Diocese has not paid out any recent claims, nor has it been approached about any future lawsuits.

After a review of 125 files here, eight cases were identified for further scrutiny.

Six of eight cases under review have now been disposed of, with two retired priests being asked not to engage in active ministry. Three cases were judged to be without merit or lacking in detail necessary to investigate.

The cases of two active priests remain to be decided next month at a meeting of the review board.

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck also is conducting an inquiry into the allegations.

Peck said he still is not able to determine whether he will conduct a criminal investigation or refer allegations to another county's district attorney for investigation.

He said some of the acts described in the allegations took place in counties other than Westmoreland.

Statnick said the priest will not be "thrown out into the street."

"The law of the church is that we cannot leave these people destitute no matter what they've done. He'll have health coverage, he'll have a place to sleep and meals to eat until he gets himself established (outside the church)," he said.

In addition, Statnick said the individual has been offered counseling.

"Obviously, he has a number of major decisions," he said.

Statnick said parishioners and priests have had varying reactions to how the diocese has handled the investigation.

"Some people have been grateful. We've (also) received letters and calls (of criticism). The word witch hunt was used. But this is a problem of the whole church. We are taking steps to assure that people's children aren't in danger," Statnick said.



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