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Priest removed from West Newton, Herminie parishes following sexual abuse allegation

September 23, 2018
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The Rev. Joseph E. Bonafed

Another priest in the Greensburg diocese has been removed from ministry following an allegation of sexual abuse, this one dating back 28 years.

Diocese officials suspended the Rev. Joseph E. Bonafed from Holy Family Parish, West Newton, and St. Edward Parish, Herminie, after receiving a “credible allegation” against him on Tuesday, the diocese said.

“Father Bonafed was ... relieved of all parish duties within 24 hours of the allegation,” the diocese said in a statement. “He will remain on leave until authorities complete their investigation.”

The allegation against Bonafed involves sexual abuse of a minor 28 years ago, but the diocese gave no further details. The allegation was then reported to PA ChildLine and the appropriate district attorney.

The victim originally contacted the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s sexual abuse hotline in April, the diocese said.

When asked why the Attorney General’s office had not alerted the Greensburg diocese or reacted to the report sooner, Shapiro said he could not comment on specific cases but emphasized that every hotline report is vetted by his office to determine whether an investigation should be pursued.

“I’m not willing to accept that version of events,” Shapiro said of Greensburg’s account during an unrelated news conference in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. “Let me find out what occurred. Let us look into it, and if we are in a position to share that publicly, we will.”

Parishioners at both parishes will be notified this weekend, when Masses will be covered by other clergy, diocese spokesman Jerry Zufelt said.

Bonafed is the fourth priest to be removed from ministry in the last two years for allegations of sexual abuse, and the second to be removed from Holy Family Parish in West Newton.

In September 2016, the Rev. John T. Sweeney was removed from Holy Family and placed on administrative leave following an allegation of sexual abuse dating back 25 years. Sweeney was later charged and convicted of indecent assault.

In June, the Rev. James W. Clark was removed from his position as parochial vicar at five Uniontown parishes following an allegation of sexual abuse dating back 50 years.

This month, following the Aug. 14 release of the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury report, Monsignor Michael Matusak, also a priest in Uniontown, was removed from ministry after the diocese received an allegation of abuse.

“A credible allegation does not mean it has been substantiated or proven,” the diocese said. “This announcement in no way implies Father Bonafed is guilty.”

Bonafed has been at Holy Family since last August, according to the Catholic Accent. He was appointed to St. Edward at the same time. Prior to that, he served as pastor of St. John Baptist de La Salle Parish, Delmont, and as administrator of St. Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Export, since 2012.

Shapiro spoke to national media this week about the grand jury report and claimed that bishops from Harrisburg and Greensburg tried to block the investigation despite publicly supporting it -- a claim that legal counsel for both dioceses dismissed as false “insinuations.”

“I’m not going to get into a back and forth with the cardinal or the bishop,” Shapiro said Wednesday.

He urged the public to read the report.

“Some of the comments that have been made are directly contradicted by the church’s own records,” Shapiro said.

“The broader issue here is that the public has grown very weary, very angry, very sad that you have institutions, in this case the Catholic Church, pitting their own reputation above their responsibility to care for children.”

In the two weeks since the grand report came out, the state’s child abuse hotlines have received 820 calls -- compared to 300 such calls received in the prior two years, Shapiro said.

The Diocese of Greensburg said it has received 18 calls since the release of the report.

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