Priest accused of abuse from 40 years ago

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/March 05, 2009

A Catholic pastor and chaplain at Bishop Canevin High School has been suspended from ministry pending investigation of an allegation that he sexually abused a minor 40 years ago.

Students at Canevin were told yesterday that the Rev. Alvin Adams was on administrative leave due to an allegation. They were given a letter to take home. All pastors and parish life collaborators were sent a similar letter, which will also be read at Ascension parish in Ingram, where Father Adams became pastor in July, said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese.

"Removing Father Adams from active ministry does not imply guilt. It is intended to allow time to safeguard the course of justice while preserving the rights of everyone involved, including the person against whom an allegation has been made and the person who has made the allegation," the Rev. David Bonnar, vicar for clergy, wrote to the priests.

Father Lengwin declined to detail the accusation, other than saying it occurred 40 years ago and would constitute a violation of the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The diocese had never received an allegation about Father Adams until this week, Father Lengwin said. He is forbidden to wear clerical garb or administer any sacraments, he said.

Diocesan officials intended to take the allegation to the district attorney yesterday afternoon, Father Lengwin said, although he was not certain whether that had happened. Mike Manko, a spokesman for district attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said yesterday afternoon that he was unaware of the allegation.

Father Adams, 68, was ordained in 1967 and served until 1972 at the former St. Canice, Knoxville, where he was a parochial vicar when the abuse allegedly occurred. He was a parochial vicar at St. Joseph the Worker, New Castle, 1972-75, spent the summer of 1975 at St. Paul Cathedral before becoming assistant principal of the former Mon Valley Catholic High School.

He left Mon Valley in 1980 to become chaplain at Canevin, while also serving as administrator or pastor of the former St. Vincent de Paul in Esplen, St. Rita in Munhall and Resurrection in West Mifflin.

The diocese will convene its Review Board to assess the credibility of the allegation and make a recommendation to Bishop David Zubik. The Review Board consists mostly of laity with expertise in evaluating abuse cases, including the parent of a victim of child sexual abuse.

"The Review Board makes a recommendation to the bishop and they are always taken very seriously," Father Lengwin said.

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