PA--Abuse case vs. Pgh priest settles
For immediate release: Tuesday, March 29
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, 314 645 5915 home, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik has settled – and kept silent about - another child sex abuse and cover up case against a child molesting Catholic cleric who worked/lived in Wexford and Sewickly. Catholics and citizens should ask him “How many other cases have you secretly settled in your nine years as head of the Pittsburgh diocese?”
In the early 1980s, Fr. John P. Connor was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in New Jersey. Prosecutors and diocesan attorneys struck a deal that if Connor admitted to the abuse stayed out of trouble for a year his record would be erased. He was sent to a treatment center for child molesting clerics at Southdown Institute in Canada.
Despite this, Pittsburgh Catholic officials quietly let Fr. Connor come to Pennsylvania and quietly work at St. Alphonsus Church in Wexford from 1986-88. Ironically, this was right around the time then-Fr. Zubik, a Sewickly native, was named administrative secretary to then-Pittsburgh Bishop Anthony Bevilaccqua. We find it very hard to believe Zubik – a top diocesan official and Sewickly native -didn’t know a predator priest was living in his hometown.
Now, Bishop Zubik must disclose Fr. Connor’s whereabouts and aggressively seek out others he has hurt. And Zubik must address a key, troubling question: Why, despite decades of pledges of “openness,” is the settlement against him being announced by the victim and his attorney and not by Bishop Zubik and his staff?
Bishop Zubik should also go to every place where Fr. Connor worked, and beg anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes to call police. We believe it’s possible Fr. Connor might still be criminally charged for child sex crimes. But not if Bishop Zubik and his colleagues continue to say and do as little as possible.
(A photo of and more information about Fr. Connor is available at BishopAccountability.org)
The first US predator priest attracted national headlines a full 30 years ago. All US bishops promised to be “transparent” about clergy sex crimes a full 14 years ago. It’s appalling that even now, Bishop Zubik and his colleagues are breaking their pledges and being secretive even after an abuse report is deemed credible. And it’s appalling that deeply wounded child sex abuse victims must publicly prod Bishop Zubik to do what the Gospel parable of the lost sheep mandates that he do – leave the rest of the flock, go out into the dark and the cold, seeking the one wounded individual who was assaulted as a child by a priest and is still suffering as an adult.
For the safety of kids, Bishop Zubik should also post the names of all accused predators on his diocesan web site. About 30 US bishops have done this. This is the absolute bare minimum every bishop should do to safeguard the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth. It’s just wrong for bishops to recruit, educate, ordain, hire, transfer and shield child molesting clerics and then do little or nothing to warn the public about them once abuse reports against them are made.
We hope this settlement will provide some comfort to Fr. Connor’s victim. We also hope it will encourage others who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes to come forward, expose predators, protect kids, deter cover ups and start healing.
Remember this settlements – and who disclosed it, the victim and his attorney – the next time someone claims that Catholic officials are “open” and “transparent” about clergy sex crimes and cover ups these days. It’s just not true.
Catholics and citizens must continue to rely on courageous victims, determined journalists and our secular justice system to warn parents, police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public about known, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics.
We urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions – especially in Pittsburgh – to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling journalists, get justice by calling attorneys, and get comfort by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted and cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
NOTE – About 14 years ago, Fr. Connor went reportedly sent to live in a retirement home for priests in New Jersey. Bishop Zubik should disclose whether this did, in fact, happen and whether Fr. Connor is still there or not.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
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