The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said Friday it placed two priests with ties in Washington and Greene counties on administrative leave because of recent allegations they sexually abused children years ago.
Diocesan officials said Bishop Zubik had taken that step during investigations involving 71-year-old the Rev. John Bauer – who’s been serving in team ministry at parishes in Greene County – and the retired Rev. Bernard Costello, 81, who completed his last assignment as temporary administrator of the Mary, Mother of the Church parish in Charleroi in 2011.
Zubik also placed another retired priest – the Rev. Hugh Lang, 87, who retired in 2006 as pastor of St. Therese of Lisieux in Munhall, Allegheny County – on leave following an allegation the diocese received Monday about him sexually abusing a minor in 2001.
The diocese said it received an allegation Aug. 22 that Costello sexually abused a minor back in the mid-1960s, and one Thursday that Bauer did so in the early 1980s.
All three denied the allegations, which the diocese said were reported to law enforcement. The diocese didn’t say where the abuse purportedly occurred.
The acknowledgement of the new allegations is an after-tremor to the seismic shock to the release in August of a grand jury report, which detailed decades of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy across Pennsylvania and alleged efforts by church officials to hide those.
Investigators said they identified 301 priests in six dioceses, including Pittsburgh and Greensburg, who allegedly abused more than 1,000 children.
Church officials said the claims of abuse involving Costello and Lang were the first the diocese has received about the men.
Bauer was among those accused of impropriety in the grand jury report. He previously told a reporter he would have left the priesthood “if there was one scintilla of doubt of sexual abuse.” He gave the interview Aug. 15 – a day after the release of the report – just after saying Mass at St. Hugh Church near Carmichaels.
The diocese described the accusation detailed in the report as “not substantiated as child sexual abuse because the accuser stated that Bauer did not sexually abuse him.”
A document from the Pittsburgh diocese reportedly showed a man discussed Bauer with a church official in 2013 while reporting the conduct of another priest, Michael Romero, who died in 2000.
He said the priests – who were at Immaculate Conception in Washington at the time – gave him alcohol and would talk to him and other boys about masturbation.
The man recalled Bauer drinking with him and two other students during a trip to Columbus for a wrestling tournament, and Bauer would wrestle with him and other boys even though he wasn’t a coach, according to the report. The man said there was no genital contact when he and Bauer did so.
Bauer denied giving students alcohol and said the man could have confused him with Romero, the grand jury report said.
The Pittsburgh diocese said Bauer’s current posting included the parishes of St. Ann in Waynesburg, St. Ignatius of Antioch in Bobtown, Our Lady of Consolation in Nemacolin and St. Thomas in Clarksville.
The decision to place the priests on leave means they can’t “engage in public ministry, dress as priests or otherwise present themselves as priests in good standing,” according to the diocese.