Wednesday, October 5, 2011

'The fear of every priest' -- a false allegation -- is visited on an American Bishop

Pittsburgh Catholic Bishop David Zubik denied a charge that he tried to forcibly kiss a student at a high school where Zubik was vice principal in the mid 1980s. 

If you think this is just another sex scandal involving a priest, you'd better read on.

The accuser has also accused two other priests of inappropriate contact in two unrelated incidents.

In addition, according to a local district attorney, the accuser has a lengthy criminal record with charges including burglary, indecent exposure and open lewdness.

It gets worse. At the man's request, Zubik met with him and his wife on June 1 to discuss previous abuse accusations that the man made against former priests. Except the man wasn't especially interested in discussing those alleged incidents. He wanted discuss a problem he was having: he wanted to become a lay minister in his local parish, but his criminal record prevented him from clearing a routine background check required of people who participate in church services. He asked Zubik to intercede in the background check so he could serve in the ministry.  Zubik refused to interfere, and a diocese review board turned down the accuser's application in early August.

That's when the allegations against Zubik started. "I believe my accuser saw me as part of the process of denying his authorization to serve," Zubik said.

The man sent emails to his pastor about "taking down someone big in the church" and, later, in public posts on the high school's Facebook page and on his blog, titled "Molested by Bishop Zubik," he made the claim about Zubik.

Zubik did not have to go public. There are no criminal or civil charges stemming from the accusation. But Zubik passed the matter on to the local district attorney, who held a news conference today to discuss the investigation.

"In my opinion there is no base of law or fact to substantiate this claim," said Beaver County district attorney Tony Berosh. Berosh said the man never came to police and never reported the alleged assault by Zubik. The district attorney began investigating when the Diocese contacted him.  "He's making these allegations and not coming to us and telling us what happened. That speaks volumes for what he has to say," said Berosh. 

Berosh said that the Bishop did nothing wrong and said the man has a lengthy criminal record with charges including burglary, indecent exposure and open lewdness.

The district attorney said they conducted an investigation even though the statue of limitations was up. Berosh said the accuser was hard to reach and was not cooperative. When the accuser finally responded, Berosh said he told him that he was represented by council civilly and was going to handle matters in his own fashion.

Zubik held a press conference today. "The fear of every priest is that someone, sometime, somewhere, somehow will level a false accusation against him. That nightmare has been realized for me," Zubik said. He called the accusation "false, offensive and outrageous."

"I emphatically state that no such behavior ever occurred, nor any semblance of such behavior."

"I was aware that my reputation would be tarnished here, but I mostly wanted to stand up for the church and my fellow priests," he said. "We take allegations from anyone very seriously, but at the same time we cannot let ourselves become targets to those who would make false claims."

Zubik described his accuser as "a complex individual" and said he had no intention of taking legal action against him.  "I assure you that I am concerned about the welfare of my accuser. At the same time, I expect that my integrity and the integrity of the Church I lead will be respected as well. I pledge my prayers for my accuser, and I ask your prayers for both of us," he said.

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter attempted to e-mail the accuser with questions. The accuser declined, saying he was going to be interviewed by Nancy Grace of CNN in three weeks.

Following the infamous Duke Lacrosse false rape claim, before Duke suspended the lacrosse team's season, Grace famously said: "I'm so glad they didn't miss a lacrosse game over a little thing like gang rape!"   Alan Dershowitz recently wrote about Ms. Grace: "She behaves on her TV talk show as if there’s no such thing as innocence; everybody arrested is guilty."