PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A victim of the first priest sentenced to prison time as a result of the state Grand Jury investigation into clergy sexual abuse says statute of limitations reform is necessary.
Disgraced retired priest, Fr. John Sweeney, of the Diocese of Greensburg, was sentenced nearly a year ago to 11½ months to five years in prison.
Now, one of his victims, who Sweeney admitted to abusing, is calling for changes to the statute of limitations process. He addressed the media Tuesday afternoon, via Skype, during a news conference hosted by his attorney.
Investigators say Sweeney admitted to forcing the victim, who was 10-years-old at the time, to perform a sex act on him in a conference room at St. Mary Margaret Church in Lower Burrell in the 1990s. Sweeney was pastor at St. Margaret Mary’s for 12 years.
The victim, now 37, said he was provided milk and cookies after the incident by the church’s secretary.
“It felt like it was a normal day at the office for her. It felt like it wasn’t the first time she had done something like that,” the victim said.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian says his client did not take part in the Survivors’ Compensation Program.
“I feel that the compensation fund is really a way for the church to protect itself,” the victim said. “It’s kind of labeled or branded as something to help the victims, but nothing against the people who have taken the compensation fund, but to me, I am not going to take their hush money. It’s just a way to protect the church in case the statute of limitations changes. And even if it doesn’t, I don’t care. I’m not going to stay silent for them. I’ve been silent for too long.”
WATCH LIVE: Victims’ News Conference —
The victim said it was the movie “Spotlight,” starring Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton that inspired him to come forward. He said testifying in front of the Grand Jury in Pittsburgh was an emotional experience, but a step towards closure for him.
“I believe that the churches in Pennsylvania know that they have a lot of victims here, and if the statute of limitations changed, it would cost them a lot of money. Our state legislators need to stop protecting this organization, it’s a very wealthy organization, a very powerful organization,” the victim said. “I’m very proud to be a Pennsylvanian, but when you see states like New Jersey and New York and Washington DC, states surrounding us that have changed their statute of limitations as a result of our own Grand Jury investigation and our own state isn’t changing them, that’s just absurd.”
Greensburg Diocese Bishop Edward C. Malesic announced establishment of the reconciliation initiative and compensation program in February.
“I want to be sure we do everything possible to assist survivors in the healing process. Their stories, their pain and their anguish have had a tremendous impact on me,’ Bishop Malesic said of the program.
Initially charged with felony involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, Sweeney pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor indecent assault.
“The widespread sexual abuse of innocent children within the Diocese of Greensburg, the related complicity of the supervisors, and the opposition to amending the statute of limitations reflect poorly upon the Diocese of Greensburg,” said Attorney Mitchell Garabedian.
The settlement demand of the anonymous victim of Father John T. Sweeney is $1,000,000 and has not been responded to by the Diocese of Greensburg.
Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.