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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh removed Fr. Richard Lelonis from ministry back in September after two victims came forward saying that the priest had allegedly abused them.
“I trusted him as a priest and a friend when I was a teenager, and he took advantage of that trust,” said one of the alleged victims.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan spoke with him on the phone.
He said, as a teenager in the 1970s, he went to Lelonis for help after another man sexually abused him. But, instead of counsel, Lelonis allegedly wanted the young man to engage in the same acts with him.
“He then pleaded, and got to the point where he was literally crying, wanting me to show him the abuses that took place,” the victim said. “Actually go through those acts with him.”
The diocese removed Lelonis from his position as director of Matrimonial Concerns at St. Paul Seminary, but it has not posted his name on its website as having a credible allegation against him, saying the allegations have not yet been “substantiated.”
“There’s a process after an allegation happens. It goes to an independent review board and that hasn’t happened yet,” said Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese spokesman Msgr. Ronald Lengwin.
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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.
In a section of the report on Lelonis, another victim accused the then-parish priest of molesting him over a period of years, and that when that 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 occurred and returned the priest to ministry. That happened despite, according the grand jury report, Lelonis’s own admission that he had an “attraction to minors.”
The diocese won’t confirm this and says it will not be posting the names of redacted priests until the state supreme court decides to release them.