More Abuse Allegations Against Pittsburgh Priests

Four were not previously named in the Grand Jury Report

The Inside Story With Marty Griffin
November 15, 2018 - 2:27 pm
Priest at Church
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By Jennifer Bloodworth for NewsRadio 1020 KDKA

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) — More priests in the Pittsburgh Diocese have been accused of child sex abuse.

Attorney Alan Perer of SPK Law Firm filed 12 more lawsuits on behalf of 14 child sex abuse survivors against the Diocese Thursday morning in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.

The lawsuits name the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, current Bishop David A. Zubik and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl.

Wuerl was the previous Pittsburgh Bishop. Pope Francis accepted his resignation as Archbishop of Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

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The lawsuits accuse diocesan leadership of "systematic fraudulent concealment and conspiracy" to conceal knowledge of abuse, allowing for more abuse to occur. They seek unspecified damages for the plaintiffs and demand jury trials for each.

Four of the 11 priests identified in these most recent suits were not previously named in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on sexual abuse and cover up in six Roman Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania.

Father John Unger is accused of sodomizing a 10-year-old student while working at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Shadyside.  The lawsuit alleges Unger did so or attempted to do so multiple times between 1969 and 1971 and told the boy that Jesus would hurt his family if he told anyone.

Unger died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 88 in 2004.

Father Peter Pilarski is accused of abusing a 15-year-old boy while working at Resurrection in West Mifflin in 1966. The lawsuit alleges Pilarski took the boy to a cottage outside of the West Mifflin area to avoid being recognized and may have drugged the child.

Pilarski died last year at the age of 84.

Another lawsuit alleges Father George Leech abused a child while he was a student at St. Bartholomew’s School in Penn Hills between the ages of 12 and 14 beginning in 1960. The plaintiff alleges Leech would fondle him at a local ice skating pond, and had several prospective altar boys undress so that he could “determine what size smock they would need.”

That lawsuit alleges the victim reported the allegations to the Diocese three times around 2008.

Leech died from kidney failure in 2006 at the age of 76.

Another lawsuit names a new priest involved in the ring of abuse at St. Michael in Elizabeth Township outlined in the Grand Jury Report. The charges focus mostly on Father George Zirwas, who is accused of abusing a boy multiple times a week for five years beginning when he was 13 in 1982.

Zirwas is accused of purchasing the plaintiff a gold cross to wear. This practice was described in the Grand Jury Report as a way to identify children who had already been groomed for abuse, making them easier targets.

Father Joseph Feltz is named as a participant in group abuse. He was not previously identified in any lists of predator priests. The alleged abuse occurred in the rectory.  

“The significance of that is what the Grand Jury said,” Perer told KDKA Radio’s Marty Griffin. “Even though they identified 99 priests, 300 victims in the Pittsburgh Diocese, they said they think this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

He expects more victims to come forward and more priests to be named.

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Hear Alan Perer's full interview with KDKA Radio's Marty Griffin:

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