Pittsburgh diocese places 3 priests on leave following sexual abuse allegations

September 27, 2018
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The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh on Friday placed three priests on leave as allegations of sexual abuse continue to come to light.

The allegations include two retired priests and one active priest, the Rev. John Bauer, who serves in several Greene County parishes: St. Ann in Waynesburg; St. Hugh in Carmichaels; St. Ignatius of Antioch in Bobtown; Our Lady of Consolation in Nemacolin; and St. Thomas in Clarkesville.

The retired priests are the Rev. Bernard Costello, who retired in 2011, and the Rev. Hugh Lang, who retired in 2006.

All three priests have denied the allegations, the diocese wrote in a press release.

Bauer, 71, is accused of sexually abusing a minor in the early 1980s, according to a release from the diocese. The grand jury reported included an earlier allegation of misconduct against Bauer, but the Rev. Nicholas Vaskov, a spokesman for the diocese, said in a release that the allegation was discounted because the victim said Bauer did not sexually abuse him.

The latest allegation was reported Thursday, Vaskov said.

Costello is accused of sexually abusing a minor in the mid-1960s, according to the release. The diocese received the report Aug. 22. Costello’s last assignment was as administrator at Mary, Mother of the Church in Charleroi.

According to a 2001 notice from the diocese, Costello was moved from parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Natrona Heights to the same position at Mary, Mother of the Church in Feb. 5, 2001.

He retired from the Charleroi parish in 2011. The allegation was levied Aug. 22.

Lang, 87, last served as pastor of St. Therese of Lisieux in Munhall, according to the release. He’s accused of sexually abusing a child in 2001.

Vaskov said these are the first allegations leveled against Costello and Lang. He said the three cases have been reported to police. He said Bishop David Zubik is sending letters to all the parishes where the priests have served this weekend. The allegation was made Aug. 27.

Judy Jones, founder of the Survivors Network of Abuse by Priests (SNAP), questioned why it took days for the allegations to be made public.

“The delay enables unfettered supervision,” Jones said in a statement. “Were more children, minors, and vulnerable adults harmed? Could the accused have time to intimidate witnesses and destroy evidence? They should have been exposed immediately.”

Removal from the ministry means a priest is not allowed to engage in ministry, cannot administer the sacraments, cannot dress in clerical attire and cannot identify himself as a priest.

″(It) does not imply guilt,” Zubik said. “If a determination is made that (he) did what he is accused of, those restrictions will become permanent.”

According to the grand jury report, the first allegation of sexual abuse against Bauer came to light when it was included in another complaint, one which was made against the Rev. Michael Romero dated Oct. 13, 2013.

A memo filed under that date from Rita Flaherty, the Diocesan Assistance Coordinator, stated a phone call took place with an unidentified man who told her that Romero and Bauer provided him with alcohol and encouraged his drinking. He said he had dealt with alcoholism for years “while trying to suppress the memories of sexual abuse as a minor child,” according to the grand jury report.

He also allegedly said Bauer and Romero would often speak to him and other boys about masturbation, and Bauer once took him and two other students to a wrestling tournament in Columbus, Ohio, and “they were all drinking alcohol as they drove,” according to the grand jury report.

The victim said Bauer would wrestle with him but “maintained that there was no genital contact,” according to the report.

Confronted with the allegations, Bauer said he would join the boys in wrestling in the wrestling room because “he enjoyed doing a good workout,” according to the report. He initially denied taking the Columbus trip but later said he recalled the trip but maintained there was no alcohol, according to the report. He said that perhaps the boys brought their own alcohol, and he was unaware, or maybe the victim was confusing him with Romero, who was deceased by that time.

According to the grand jury report, the allegation was forwarded to the Washington County District Attorney’s Office on Aug. 5, 2014.

Vaskov said assignment histories for Lang and Costello were not available Friday afternoon. Bauer’s stretches to the 1970s, according to the report.

May 1973: Ordination

May 1973 - October 1978: Parochial Vicar, St. Joan of Arc, South Hills

October 1978 - January 1988: Parochial Vicar, Immaculate Conception, Washington

June 1988 - June 1994: Pastor, Immaculate Conception, Washington

June 1994 - February 1998: Pastor, Good Samaritan, Ambridge

February 1998 - January 1999: Leave of absence

January 1999 - June 2006: Administrator, Our Lady of Consolation, Carmichaels January 1999 - present: Pastor, St. Hugh, Carmichaels

June 2006 - present: Pastor, Our Lady of Consolation, Carmichaels

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