LOWER BURRELL (KDKA) — The attorney general’s office is charging 74-year-old John Thomas Sweeney, a retired priest of the Diocese of Greensburg, with one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
According to a criminal complaint, sometime between Sept. 1991 and June 1992, the victim was sent to see Sweeney after he misbehaved on a school bus. The victim was 10-years-old at the time in the fourth grade at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School.
KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti Reports —
The victim said he was taken to a dark conference room near Sweeney’s office where Sweeney forced him to perform oral sex on him, and said if he didn’t do it, he would get in “trouble.”
The victim said after the sexual assault took place, Sweeney’s secretary brought the victim milk and cookies.
Watch Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s press conference –
The victim came forward about the abuse last fall after watching the movie “Spotlight,” a movie about the cover-up of child abuse in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Boston. The victim said he wasn’t pursuing a lawsuit against Sweeney or the church, but he was concerned that Sweeney could still be harming other children.
The victim said his “family had great affection for Sweeney.” He said he “kept [the incident] a secret his entire life, to protect his parents, who he feared would blame themselves.”
The criminal complaint reports that the grand jury learned that the victim was a vulnerable child, whose parents sent him to St. Margaret Mary in the hopes he would get a better education.
After the news broke, parishioners and protesters both gathered at the Saint Mary Church in Lower Burrell.
Francis Merman, Sweeney’s defense attorney, said, “These charges are from 26 years ago. We intend to defend [Sweeney] vigorously.”
Watch Lynne Hayes-Freeland’s report —
The Diocese of Greensburg says after they learned about the allegation, Sweeney was removed from Holy Family Parish in West Newton, where he had been serving as pastor since Oct. 30, 2008, and he was placed on administrative leave starting Sept. 21, 2016.
Sweeney retired on Dec. 31, 2016.
Sweeney turned himself in Monday afternoon. He is free on $50,000 unsecured bond.
The organization, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which supports victims of clergy sexual abuse is calling on the Catholic Bishop of Greensburg to release all secret files and reports it has on Sweeney.