Pittsburgh’s Bishop Zubik: ‘There Was No Cover-Up’

by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 14, 2018   

Defends himself and his predecessor Cdl. Donald Wuerl in light of PA grand jury report

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PITTSBURGH (ChurchMilitant.com) - The same day as the Pennsylvania grand jury released its massive report on Catholic sex abuse cover-up in six dioceses, the bishop of Pittsburgh defended his handling of sex abuse allegations.

Bishop David Zubik said during a question-and-answer session Tuesday afternoon, "There was no cover-up going on" in the diocese of Pittsburgh. He clarified that he was referring to what he has observed in his roughly 30 years of affiliation with the diocese.

When then-Bishop Donald Wuerl headed the diocese, Zubik worked under him in several capacities, eventually becoming auxiliary bishop in 1997.

Zubik's name appears dozens of times in the grand jury report in connection to priests accused of sex abuse. For instance, Zubik signed a letter to Fr. Ernest Paone, an accused homosexual predator, indicating that Bp. Wuerl had approved Paone's transfer to the diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada.

"On November 20, 1991, Zubik wrote to Paone to confirm that Wuerl had approved his new assignment," the report notes.

Zubik had sent Wuerl detailed memos listing Paone's sexual misconduct, but in spite of these reports, Paone was kept in active ministry for decades.

"The Grand Jury noted that this process showed no concern for public safety or the victims of child sexual abuse," the report states. "The handling of these matters was commonplace. In spite of the complaint, Paone continued in active ministry following his brief evaluation at a church-based treatment facility."

During the press conference, Zubik defended Wuerl's reputation, claiming the cardinal has been proactive for decades in responding to sex abuse allegations.

Zubik denied that Wuerl was guilty of cover-up, arguing, "Cover-up would only be if you intentionally did it."

'Cover-up would only be if you intentionally did it.'

In an odd choice of words, Zubik said Wuerl has been and continues to be "passionate about child sexual abuse."

In his statement opening the press conference, the bishop defended the Pittsburgh diocese, arguing that it has been a pioneer in the proper handling of clerical sex abuse allegations.

"We are not the same diocese as we were 30 years ago," Zubik said in answer to a reporter.

Later, he expressed sympathy with faithful Catholics scandalized by the crisis of priestly sex abuse.

"So do I. I feel betrayed," he said. "I'm scandalized."

He repeatedly dodged questions about whether specific cases were examples of covering up sexual abuse of children. Rather than answering "yes" or "no," he would say that it is "important to consider" the circumstances and details surrounding the cases listed in the grand jury report.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called on the dioceses of Pennsylvania to support four proposals that could help sex abuse victims find justice. The four recommendations involved changes to state law, including:

  • removing statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors
  • creating a longer civil window so victims can sue for damages
  • clarifying the penalties for failing to report child abuse to authorities
  • stopping confidentiality agreements that bar victims from reporting to law enforcement

Bishop Zubik said he supported all four of the attorney general's proposal, including the recommendation to do away with statutes of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors.


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