LAWRENCE CO., Pa. (WKBN) – A spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese confirmed Tuesday that Priest John Fitzgerald has been placed on administrative leave following an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the late 1990s.
The church turned the case over to law enforcement right away, according to Father Ron Lengwin, saying that one event involved in the allegation happened in Allegheny County and another in Lawrence County.
The diocese has asked both the Lawrence County and Allegheny County Distrcit Attorneys to investigate, according to KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. He served as pastor for Our Lady of Peace in Conway, Beaver County.
Lengwin said he was not sure why the allegation is being brought to light now, but that it is not uncommon for sexual abuse allegations to come out after the fact.
The Diocese will gather a group of experts including lawyers, therapists and more to decide if Fitzgerald can serve as a priest when the time is right, according to Lengwin.
During his period of leave, Fitzgerald, who has denied that the abuse happened, cannot identify himself as a priest, according to KDKA.
The church has established policies and procedures to protect children, including getting over 40,000 church members trained to recognize sexual abuse and background checks for those who work with children, Lengwin said. He also said that most allegations are of events further in the past, such as those against Fitzgerald.