The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has placed a priest on administrative leave after an allegation of child sexual abuse. Father Joseph Feltz, 65, is facing allegations of having molested a child during the mid-1980s, according to TribLive.
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The allegation, which church officials say has been forwarded to law enforcement authorities, was made in a lawsuit recently filed against the diocese. Feltz is one of four priests named as alleged sexual abusers in the lawsuit. Father Feltz has denied the claim.
Most recently, Father Feltz served as the pastor of St. Christopher at the Lake Parish in Prospect, Pennsylvania. He retired from the position in October. Like all priests on administrative leave, Feltz will be barred from engaging in public ministry.
He will not be allowed to dress as a priest or otherwise present himself as a priest.
Pittsburgh Bishop David Allen Zubik sent letters about the decision to all parishes where Feltz has served. The Bishop stresses that placing a priest on administrative leave “does not imply guilt.”
Instead, administrative leave “is intended to safeguard the course of justice while preserving the rights of everyone involved, including both the person who made the allegations and the person against whom an allegation has been made.”
The Pittsburgh Diocese will use policies outlined in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to investigate the claims of misconduct against Father Feltz.
If substantiated, the current restrictions on Feltz’s ministry will become permanent. If the investigation finds the claims unsubstantiated, the priests faculties for ministry will be restored and “all that is possible will to be done to restore [his] reputation and return him to ministry,” Bishop Zubik writes.
Pennsylvania’s Catholic community is still reeling from a grand jury report released in August that documented the sexual abuse of over 1,000 alleged victims by more than 300 priests. Dioceses from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia have been accused of covering up sexual abuse in Pennsylvania for decades. Father Joseph Feltz is not named in the grand jury report.