Beloved Westmoreland County pastor forced to resign after employee’s arrest for sexual assault

GREENSBURG, Pa. — The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg has asked one of Westmoreland County’s “most beloved” pastors to resign after one of his employees was arrested on sex assault charges.

The Catholic Diocese of Greensburg is now asking the Westmoreland County Detective Bureau to investigate what they call a “conspiracy to conceal the criminal background” of a church cemetery employee.

>>> Diocese of Greensburg opens investigation after parish cemetery employee’s arrest

Bishop Larry Kulick is implementing major changes following the employee’s arrest, in addition to asking the parish pastor to resign.

“The man was arrested and charged with eight felonies including sexual assault of a minor. Despite failing a criminal background check, he was permitted to be employed in various positions at our parishes for 12 years,” Kulick said.

Shon Harrity was arrested this week on sexual assault charges, accused of raping a teenager. The teen was not affiliated with the church.

Harrity was a maintenance worker at the Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Irwin.

“I am outraged that he was permitted to be employed at our parishes, and I am beyond disappointed that our tireless efforts to raise the bar on safe environment training were blatantly disregarded,” Kulick said.

Harrity had a criminal record, which included indecent exposure, open lewdness and drug charges.

According to the Greensburg Diocese, the Irwin parishes safe environment coordinator failed to flag Harrity’s employee file, which would have prevented him from working near children. The safe environment coordinator is a paid position. Father John Moineau signed off on the background check, which had several required clearances missing.

The Bishop said Moineau took responsibility and is remorseful, but was forced to resign this week.

“I personally met Father John 40 years ago...he’s just an unbelievable person, not just as a priest but as a person he would never put somebody in harm’s way, ever, if he had knowledge of it,” said Dave Reese, whose family attends Immaculate Conception.

“It’s a shame he had to retire and leave, but if he knew something and didn’t report it...then I’m sorry that was wrong on his part. Stand up for your church and keep your church safe,” said Linda Hixson, who has lived in Irwin for 81 years.

The bishop spoke out in a seven-minute video statement, saying he recognizes this pastor is beloved in the community and has presided over countless weddings and baptisms. But he stands by his decision.

“I may live the rest of my life as the bishop of the diocese as someone who asked one of our most popular and beloved priests to resign,” he said. “But I have a responsibility to the people of this diocese. I will not hide our mistakes and I will root out any and all potential risks to the safety of children.”

The diocese will implement new changes immediately: all priests and administrators must review employee and volunteer files in their parishes in the next seven days.

The diocese’s human resources department will do an audit of clearances in all 78 parishes and 12 catholic schools this summer and staff will undergo mandatory safe environment training.

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