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KDKA Investigates: Priest Still Not Listed As Abuser Despite Old & New Allegations

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Since the release of the grand jury report on clergy sex abuse, Bishop David Zubik has been steadfast that he has never protected predator priests or covered for their actions.

"I think I've done an awful lot of good and I can say honestly, absolutely I did not do anything that would be part of a cover-up," Zubik said in August.

But KDKA-TV News has learned that more than two months ago, two people reported that they had been sexually abused by Fr. Richard Lelonis and that as of Monday, Lelonis was still not listed on the diocesan website as having a credible allegation against him.

A man who did not wish to be identified confirmed to KDKA-TV's Andy Sheehan that both his uncle and cousin reported to the diocesan clergy abuse line that Lelonis abused them while a pastor at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in the late 1990s, but despite its own policies, the diocese has taken no action.

Sheehan: "The diocese says now when they have a credible allegation, they report it to the District Attorney, they remove the priest from ministry and they make that name public. Have those things happened?"
Victim's relative: "They have to make it known publicly and then also treat the victims or the accusers pastorally as well and reach out to them and neither of those things have been done."

KDKA has also learned that Lelonis is one of several dozen priests accused in the past of sexually abusing a minor but who have successfully had their names redacted from the grand jury report.

richard lelonis
(Photo Credit: Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh)

In a section of the grand jury report on Lelonis, another victim accused the then-parish priest of molesting him over a period of years and that when the victim threatened to report the abuse, Lelonis grabbed him by the throat and threatened to kill him.

While the diocese found that the "allegations were consistent in detail" it could not determine "with certainty" that the abuse that occurred and returned the priest to ministry, despite, according to the grand jury report, Lelonis's own admission that he had an "attraction to minors."

After the Boston Globe broke the sexual abuse scandal in that diocese in 2002, however, the Pittsburgh Diocese reconsidered its actions towards Lelonis and restricted the priest from serving mass or having contact with children.

All of this fits with Lelonis, who left Elizabeth Ann Seton in 2002 and has since been the director of matrimonial concerns for the diocese and a judge of annulments at Saint Paul Seminary in Crafton.

Until this past weekend, he was still listed on the diocesan website as having that position, but his picture has since been taken down.

The two new victims reported their abuse to both the diocesan hotline and a priest on the week of Sept. 3 and sources confirm that Lelonis was removed from his assignment a week later and has since left his residence at the Ascension Parish Rectory in Ingram. His whereabouts are now unknown.

The relative of the victims says he spoke to KDKA-TV because he believes the diocese is covering up for Lelonis and that the priest, and priests like him, need to be exposed.

"I want the church to be holy and this type of thinking or this type of inaction has to stop. We need to get the poison out of the wound and cauterize it. I love the church," the man said.

Late Monday, the Diocese did confirm that Lelonis was removed from all ministry on Sept. 12, but he is still not listed on the diocesan website as having an allegation against him.

Monsignor Ronald Lengwin says the allegations are credible and have been referred to the District Attorney, but he says they have not yet been "substantiated" and he says that must happen before Lelonis is listed on the website.

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