Parish priest on leave amid allegations

May 15, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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Rev. James Young

CRANBERRY TWP — A chaplain at parishes in Cranberry Township and Zelienople was placed on administrative leave earlier this month amid allegations of inappropriate contact with adult women.

In a May 4 letter, Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh announced the action against the Rev. James Young. Young served as chaplain at St. Ferdinand Parish in Cranberry Township and St. Gregory Parish in Zelienople as well as Holy Redeemer Parish in Ellwood City.

The letter provided few details about the allegations, but says that Young cannot “engage in public ministry at your parish or any place else.” The letter further informs parishioners that the chaplain is not allowed to dress or in any way identify himself as a priest or administer any of the church sacraments.

“Recognizing that this is a painful time for everyone concerned, I ask that you join me in praying for the persons who have brought this allegation forward, for Father Young, for those who will help make a determination in this matter and for me, your bishop,” Zubik wrote.

Zubik also made it a point to tell members of all three churches that placing Young on leave “does not imply guilt,” and that the diocesan policy mandates that all information regarding the allegations be brought before an Independent Review Board.

If Young is found to have committed the offenses of which he is accused, the sanctions become permanent, Zubik wrote. However, if an investigation determines the allegations are unfounded, “all that is possible will be done to restore Father Young's reputation and return him to the ministry,” the letter states.

Last year, the diocese announced plans to consolidate into 57 multisite parishes, with St. Ferdinand, St. Gregory and Holy Redeemer to be consolidated by 2023. Young, who served as administrator of St. Gregory Parish, was to become consolidated parish chaplain.

On Monday morning, Young's page on the church's website had been taken down.

However, cached versions of the diocese and parish websites indicate Young was ordained in 1969.

A Beaver Falls native, he served as director of pastoral care at the Medical Center of Beaver County in the early 1980s. Throughout his career, he worked in various positions in Beaver, Allegheny and Washington counties, including hospital chaplain and various leadership roles.

The Rev. Nicholas Vaskov, executive director of communications for the diocese, said Monday that the information contained in the letter is all that could be released. He was unable to confirm when the alleged conduct took place, or when it was reported to officials.

He said there is no timeline for when the Independent Review Board would consider the matter, although officials are working to schedule a time for the review to occur. He said the process could take months.

In the meantime, Vaskov said parishioners should not expect to see any noticeable changes, and Mass times will not be affected. He said other members of the clergy will take over Young's responsibilities.

As new information is released, Vaskov said members of the church will be the first to know. He said parishioners with questions are invited to speak with church officials about the process and any concerns they might have.

“To be able to process anytime something like this happens, we like to see and hear what people are thinking or feeling,” he said.

On Monday, the campuses in Cranberry Township and Zelienople were relatively quiet, with those arriving and leaving the churches choosing not to discuss the matter. Parish leaders were unavailable for comment.

In his letter, Zubik also noted that anyone who has been harmed by a church representative should contact the diocesan assistance coordinator at 888-808-1235 or the state abuse hot line at 800-932-0313.

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J.W.  Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr. is the bureau chief of the Cranberry Eagle. Johnson is a native of Bellaire, Ohio, and graduated from Bellaire High School in 2004. He is a 2009 graduate of Ohio University in Athens with a bachelor of specialized studies degree in English and journalism. While there, he served as a reporter and editor at The Post, the university’s student-run, independent newspaper. In 2009, he was hired as a reporter for The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in Wheeling, W.Va. Over the course of eight years, he also served as Marshall County bureau chief, city editor and news editor. He also won two first place West Virginia Press Association Awards for his reporting and design work. He and his wife, Maureen, live in Carnegie.