Members of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is taking news about two abuse case settlements to call on the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to better notify the public when a priest has been accused of sexual misconduct.
The priests in question had both worked in Pittsburgh, though the abuse allegations come from other places they worked.
“Any time that there’s a priest who has been accused in the court of law, we are under the impression that the Pittsburgh Diocese will automatically reach out to the churches, reach out to the congregations, let them know and actively pursue to see if there are any victims," said SNAP’s Frances Samber. "But they’re not doing that in the case of these two priests and we’re just asking why.”
A sex abuse cases against priests Alan E. Caparella and Richard Deakin were settled in separate states outside of Pennsylvania.
The Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said the men in question were not diocesan priests but belonged to religious orders, so it was the order’s responsibility to follow up.
Lengwin said whenever someone has been accused of sexual abuse and has been in the diocese, the appropriate parishes are notified. He also said there are ongoing efforts to ensure all parishioners and their children are safe.
“All 200 parishes are audited to make sure they are in compliance with the charter for the protection of children and young people,” Lengwin said. “They have to have in their bulletin announcements, information where people can call if they have been subjected to abuse, if they’ve been abused in any way. They have to have signs up going into the schools, into the churches.”
But to SNAP’s Samber, those efforts aren’t enough. She said her brother was abused by a Pittsburgh Diocese priest who in 1995 was convicted and sentenced for sexually molesting another boy. She said the way the church has handled the issue is not helping victims nor is it keeping kids safe currently.
SNAP is calling on Bishop David Zubik to post the names and whereabouts of clerics accused of child sexual abuse on the diocesan website. Samber asked Lengwin why this couldn’t be done.
“Because a lot of these people have never been in a court of law, and a lot of them have died, and why would you put names of people up there if there is no proof that anything has happened?” Lengwin said.
That led to a back and forth between Samber and Lengwing, in which Lengwin stated they couldn’t post names of those who simply have allegations against them, as allegations can be false, though he said they often are not false. But Samber said even if there are just allegations they can’t be dismissed.
A letter addressed to Zubik with the request to post the names on the diocesan website was given to Lengwin, who said he’d deliver it.