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 A Special Report from the Diocese of Greensburg

Diocese of Greensburg priest arrested on charges of sexual abuse of a minor

GREENSBURG — The Reverend John T. Sweeney, a retired priest of the Diocese of Greensburg, has been arrested and charged with one felony count of sexual abuse of a minor. He surrendered to law enforcement officials in the company of his civil counsel at the New Kensington Police Department today, July 24. After being processed, Father Sweeney was arraigned in District Court 10-1-04, Allegheny Township.

On Sept. 20, 2016, the Diocese of Greensburg was informed by the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office that a report of alleged sexual abuse of a child involving Father Sweeney dating back to the early 1990s was made to the PA ChildLine.

According to diocesan records, it was the first — and thus far is the only — complaint related to sexual abuse of a child that the Diocese of Greensburg has received concerning Father Sweeney.

In accordance with diocesan policy, as soon as the diocese was made aware of the allegation, Father Sweeney was removed from Holy Family Parish, West Newton, where he had been serving as pastor since Oct. 30, 2008.  His priestly faculties were suspended and he was placed on administrative leave effective Sept. 21, 2016, pending an investigation by civil authorities. In addition, at that time he was prohibited from presenting himself as a priest in public, and his residence was transferred to the retired priest facilities at The Bishop Connare Center. He was required to avoid any unsupervised contact with minors.

Father Sweeney retired Dec. 31, 2016, with residence at The Bishop Connare Center.

At the request of law enforcement officials, the Diocese of Greensburg did not publicize the allegation. The diocese has been fully cooperating with law enforcement’s investigation of this allegation.  The diocese also continues to cooperate with the ongoing, statewide grand jury investigation of clergy abuse of minors.

Father Sweeney, 74, was ordained a priest on May 9, 1970. He served as parochial vicar of Holy Family Parish, Latrobe, (1970-75) and Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish, Greensburg (1975-80). He served as pastor of the former St. Hedwig Parish, Smock, and its former chapel in Keisterville (1980-82); St. Mary Parish, Freeport (1982-85); St. Margaret Mary Parish, Lower Burrell, and its former chapel in Braeburn (1985-98); St. James the Greater Parish, Apollo (1998-2008); and Holy Family Parish, West Newton (2008-16).

The Diocese of Greensburg takes the protection of all children, young people and vulnerable adults seriously.  Every report of suspected abuse of a child, young person or vulnerable adult — sexual, physical or emotional — that is made to the diocese is immediately reported to the PA ChildLine and the appropriate District Attorney.

If anyone suspects that a child, young person or vulnerable adult has been abused by any one at any time, the person should call the PA ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313, no matter when the suspected incident might have occurred. Notices to this effect are regularly published in parish bulletins and the diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Accent.

Bishop Malesic calls on Catholics in the diocese to pray for all victims of abuse, and the diocese continues to educate the children and adults in the Diocese of Greensburg on how to spot and report abuse.

Because this is an ongoing investigation, the diocese can make no further comment.

Learn more about Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law and how to Report a Concern to ChildLine.