*For immediate release, July 25, 2017
Yesterday, a Pennsylvania priest, Father John Thomas Sweeney, was arrested and charged with one count of Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, a first degree felony. The arrest followed yet another Grand Jury investigation into the widespread problem of sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. The most recent investigation centered on the Diocese of Greensburg which consists of several counties in Western Pennsylvania: Armstrong, Indiana, Westmoreland and Fayette.
Last year, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office released a Grand Jury report which detailed decades of sex abuse by over a dozen priests in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. According to that investigation, hundreds of children were abused over a 50 year period. Since then, the AG’s Office has been quiet about any additional grand jury investigations into other dioceses across the state.
The criminal case against Sweeney alleges that in 1991 or 1992, Sweeney sexually assaulted a 4th grade boy who was 10 years old at the time. The boy had been misbehaving on a school bus and was directed to speak to Sweeney. That’s when Sweeney is alleged to have sexually assaulted the boy, forcing him to perform oral sex. The priest’s secretary then brought the boy some milk and cookies.
Related: Pennsylvania House Members Hoping to Give Victims More Time to Sue for Child Molestation (September 28, 2016) Yet, again, the Pennsylvania legislators seek to expand the statute of limitations in cases of child molestation, thus giving victims more time to bring their claims and obtain justice.
Pennsylvania Catholic Church, Diocese of Greensburg Criminal Investigation
According to the Criminal Complaint and Affidavit of Probable Cause in the criminal case against Sweeney, the case against Father Sweeney began when the victim stepped forward after watching the movie Spotlight. Portions of an undated Grand Jury report, which were attached to the Criminal Complaint, show that the Grand Jury believed the victim. The report stated, “Through its comprehensive inquiry, the Grand Jury has identified significant criminal wrongdoing on the part of Father John Thomas Sweeney, formerly an active Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Greensburg.” (emphasis added)
Access the Complaint, Affidavit of Probable Cause and portions of the Grand Jury report on the AG Office’s website: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/uploadedFiles/MainSite/Content/Related_Content/PressReleases/2017-07-24-Criminal%20Complaint%20Sweeney.pdf.
The victim, now in his 30s, is a member of the armed forces. He testified that his interest in coming forward was preventing Sweeney from abusing others. If convicted, Sweeney faces up to 40 years in prison.
Visit our law library for more information about priest abuse cases in Pennsylvania.