• State AG subpoenas Diocese of Pittsburgh's records amid grand jury investigation

    PITTSBURGH - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is cooperating with a grand jury investigation after receiving a subpoena from the state attorney general‘s office, Bishop David Zubik said Friday.
    Below is the full statement that the bishop released Friday night:
    “The Diocese of Pittsburgh has received a subpoena from the Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, requesting cooperation with a grand jury investigation.  
    “In the ongoing need to protect children from abuse, I welcome the opportunity to work closely with the state attorney general's office. In his cover letter to me, Deputy Attorney General Daniel Dye wrote that ‘our efforts do not have to be adversarial. . . . Our work to protect children and seek the truth should be a joint endeavor.’ I could not agree more. We are absolutely committed to protecting children from abuse.
    “The Diocese of Pittsburgh is cooperating fully with the grand jury by turning over records requested of the diocese. It is my hope that this is a first step toward the government working with all institutions to address this serious matter. 
    “I ask your prayers for all victim-survivors and their families. May God guide everyone in efforts to provide comfort and healing to victim-survivors of abuse. May God enlighten everyone engaged in this legal process.”
    Target 11 learned the attorney general's office issued the subpoena about two weeks ago. The office is asking for files dating back to 1947 for any allegations of child abuse or confirmed child abuse by priests.
    Zubik said he believes the request stems from the grand jury report earlier this year that found nearly 50 priests molested hundreds of children over several decades in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

    Pennsylvania Attorney General Bruce Beemer told Channel 11’s Catherine Varnum that the investigation into the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese revealed nearly 50 priests molested hundreds of children over several decades, and they’ve received hundreds of call to a hotline.

    When asked if the documents would be made public, Beemer said, “I think the goal of any investigation, especially when we might be looking at something systematic is to have transparency for the public.”  

    A spokesperson at the state’s Attorney General’s Office told Channel 11 Wednesday that they are not aware of any calls to the hotline involving the Pittsburgh Diocese and couldn’t say when the documents would be made public.

    When asked whether he was confident in saying there’s no cover-up, Zubik replied, “I would have to absolutely say that. No cover-up.”

    Zubik also denied knowing of any incidents of child sex abuse inside the diocese. 

    “In terms of people in ministry who were accused, not to the best of my knowledge,” he said.

    But months ago, Target 11 sat down with one man who says he settled with the diocese amid allegations of molestation by the Rev. John Wellinger with the West Mifflin Church.

    “Until the day he died, he was paid by the church and had multiple (claims against him). I wasn't the only one who made a claim against him,” Chris Matthews said.

    Only when Target 11 brought up the man’s settlement did Zubik further comment.

    “There was a settlement done with 32 victims, done in 2007 right before I returned back to Pittsburgh. (I’m) not familiar with the names on that list,” he said.

    Matthews said more must be done.

    “I don't think any of these victims can rest until the books are opened, and they really dig into it and find out what happened here,” he said.

    Zubik said that's exactly what they're doing and maintained that the diocese isn’t hiding anything.

    “Any allegation whether credible or not, everything is going (to the AG). That’s what they've asked for,” he said.

    Target 11 also spoke with Frances Samber, a spokesperson for SNAP, which is an organization that works with people abused by priests.  

    Samber said this has been a long time coming, and the organization believes the grand jury will find evidence of child sex abuse that was covered up. The organization maintains the diocese’s files should be public.

    “They need to share all of the information that they have to the public,” Samber said. “And it makes me irate whenever (Zubik) claims that he knew nothing about any cover up because he's in charge of the diocese. He's in charge of the cover-up.”

    Beemer said he could not say how long the investigation could take, but said the investigation into the Altoona-Johnston Diocese lasted an upwards of a year. 

    Stay with WPXI.com and Channel 11 News for the latest developments. 

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