UNIONTOWN (KDKA) — An allegation of abuse that happened nearly 50 years ago has cost a Uniontown priest his job.
The Diocese of Greensburg has announced Father James Clark will not return to active ministry. That decision does not sit well with many of his parishioners. After hearing the news of Clark’s permanent removal from the ministry, parishioners at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church reacted with shock, surprise and sadness.
“Totally surprised. That man was the most spiritual, emotional and dedicated person. My mother suffered from cancer for seven months and he had made daily visits to my mother,” Dawn Piccolomini said.
The Diocese of Greensburg announced the news at mass this weekend.
No details about the alleged abuse have been given, but the Diocese says the allegation has been found to be both credible and substantiated and that it happened when Clark was a janitor at St. James School in Apollo before he was a priest.
Back in June when Clark was officially removed from his duties, the Diocese issued a statement saying this was the first allegation of abuse ever leveled against him and that the events happened nearly 50 years ago. That has many parishioners questioning this decision.
“We never did find out why. What did the man do? From what I understand, he did something whenever he was a teenager,” Parishioner Mark Hasson told KDKA-TV.
“I do not even understand what the allegation was. The man was approximately 19 years old. In my mind, that’s a child,” Piccolomini said.
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Parishioner Monica Sweet reacted with anger toward the Diocese.
“I believe they really, really need to come clean with us because we have heard rumors that there was a suit settled and the Diocese had to pay out. I’m sure it’s hush money. They just want to get rid of the man. I’m angry about it,” she said.
But along with anger at unanswered questions, the church members also offer a sense of forgiveness.
“Because we believe in Jesus Christ, he died for us to forgive our sins. And we in turn forgive others. And so, it’s not for me to decide but we will pray for Father Clark,” Parishioner Beverly Popson said.