PITTSBURGH (AP/KDKA) — A priest with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has been placed on administrative leave while officials investigate claims that he had “inappropriate contact” with adult women.

The decision regarding Fr. James Young was announced in a May 4 letter from Bishop David Zubik that was distributed this past weekend in the church bulletins of St. Ferdinand in Cranberry Township, St. Gregory in Zelienople and Holy Redeemer in Ellwood City.

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Fr. Young is a member of the ministry team for the merged parishes.

Many members of those congregations say their faith remains strong, and this won’t impact the way they serve their church families or their communities.

“No doubt there is a lessening in the population, the size of the congregations, I understand, [in] many places, but the ones that believe are here and continue to come and continue to work,” one woman said.

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The letter reads, in part, “When an allegation of this nature has been made, diocesan policy mandates specific procedures, including bringing the information before the Independent Review Board, which will advise me [Bishop Zubik] on whether he [Fr. Young] is suitable for ministry.”

“Definitely surprised, but all I can say is that I’ll keep him and the other person in our prayers,” Barbara Porter, a parishioner at St. Gregory, said.

Bishop Zubik added that Young’s removal isn’t an implication of guilt. It’s intended to “safeguard the course of justice while preserving the rights of everyone involved.”

While on leave, Young can’t engage in public ministry or administer the sacraments, dress in clerical attire or identify himself as a priest. Those restrictions will become permanent if it’s determined he committed the acts.

The diocese is also advising anyone “harmed by someone representing the Church” to come forward. They provide these phone numbers: the Diocesan Assistance Coordinator at 1-888-808-1235, or the Pennsylvania state abuse hotline at 1-800-932-0313.

Click here and scroll down to read the full letter.

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