Diocese of Greensburg calls for investigation at Norwin parishes

GREENSBURG – The Diocese of Greensburg is requesting an investigation by Westmoreland County Detectives based on concerns of a potential conspiracy to conceal the criminal background of a parish cemetery employee. The former employee was arrested and charged with eight felonies, including sexual assault of a minor earlier this month – unrelated to his duties at the church. Despite failing a criminal background check, he was permitted to be employed at an Irwin cemetery and in parish maintenance for twelve years. 

On Wednesday, May 8, 2024, North Huntingdon Township Police arrested Shon M. Harrity, 47, of North Huntingdon, for offenses allegedly dating back to 2022. He was employed at the cemetery of Immaculate Conception Parish, Irwin, since 2023, and, prior to that, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, North Huntingdon, since 2012. 

Shortly after his arrest, the Diocese discovered Harrity’s criminal record, including guilty pleas of indecent exposure, open lewdness, obscene disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, and possession of a controlled substance dating back to the early 2000’s. 

The Diocese of Greensburg employs a Safe Environment Coordinator at every parish, school and Diocesan office who is responsible for administering policies related to the protection of children. The Safe Environment Coordinator, along with the Pastor, are to ensure that every employee completes a series of child abuse trainings and passes three different criminal background checks.

The Safe Environment Coordinator at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, North Huntingdon, produced a file on Harrity that included an FBI Fingerprint Check which clearly disqualified him from employment. The file was sent by electronic mail when Harrity transferred to Immaculate Conception Parish Cemetery in 2023. The Safe Environment Coordinator there, however, did not flag the file. During an audit last week, it was discovered that several required clearance documents were missing from the file. 

Additionally, the Pastor, Fr. John Moineau, previously attested to the validity of all clearances in his parishes, signing a letter to the Bishop that he personally reviewed them. 

The Diocese of Greensburg presented the information to Westmoreland County Detectives based on concerns of a potential conspiracy to conceal Harrity’s criminal background, failing to report an employee who could place others at risk, and falsely attesting to the validity of Harrity’s clearances. 

As obliged in Church law, Bishop Kulick has opened a canonical preliminary investigation into possible culpable negligence for actions or omissions resulting in harm or scandal. 

Fr. John Moineau has resigned as pastor for the good of the parishes, the Diocese and the Church, and at the same time he will go on medical leave to focus on his health. The resignation is effective immediately. The medical leave begins June 17th.

Three parish employees will be placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. 

Watch Bishop Kulick’s statement below.

Statement from Bishop Kulick on calls for  Investigation at Norwin Parishes

“First I want to say, my prayers are with the victim and those impacted by the heinous acts alleged to have taken place. I am outraged that he was permitted to be employed at our parishes. And I am beyond disappointed that our tireless efforts to raise the bar on safe environment training, required clearances and transparency were blatantly disregarded. This is exactly why we assign a safe environment coordinator in every parish and every school and every administrative office in the Diocese of Greensburg. 

These were serious and unacceptable administrative failures which call into question the higher standards we have worked so hard to implement. 

As pastor, the responsibilities fall to Father Moineau, which he has acknowledged. He is deeply remorseful. 

I realize Father Moineau has been a fixture in his parish communities for many, many years. He’s presided over many marriages, baptized many children, served as a spiritual advisor and friend. He is very much loved by all, especially through his illness. As a brother priest, I love him, too. But this serious situation cannot be ignored even though the consequences are difficult for us all.

Father John, upon my request, has resigned as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. He has offered his full cooperation during the investigation. Several parish employees have also been put on administrative leave.

  I am sure many will criticize me for this decision. I may live the rest of my life as the Bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg who asked one of our most popular and beloved priests to resign. But I have a responsibility to the people of this Diocese. I will not hide our mistakes. And I will root out any and all potential risks to the safety of children.

I ask you not to look at this decision as simply being punitive against Father John and parish staff members, but to remember the potential danger that this former employee posed. The former employee had a criminal record. A record that should have automatically disqualified him from employment around children.

And now he will be tried in Westmoreland County Court for eight felonies, including the sexual assault of a child.

Someday, in front of our maker, like each of us, I will be judged by the actions I take on this earth. I have no doubt this is the right decision.

Now, I plan to implement additional safeguards ensuring a safe environment.

First, all priests and administrators have been ordered to personally review each employee and volunteer file in their parishes within a week. This is something they are supposed to do annually, but I am ordering a complete additional review in the next seven days. Any discrepancies should immediately be reported to the Diocesan Human Resources Department.

Secondly, our Human Resources Office will conduct its own, separate audit of clearances in all 78 parishes and 12 Catholic Schools this summer.

Thirdly, I am adding mandatory sessions for safe environment training for all clergy and all employees. Pastors and Safe Environment Coordinators will receive a personal message from me: after these trainings, I will assure them, they will be held accountable for any administrative errors.

And finally, I realize state law requires updated clearances every five years. I won’t wait that long. From this point forward, any employee or volunteer who is transferring positions between offices, parishes or schools will be required to renew their clearances and trainings, even if the documents are current.

I ask you to pray for everyone involved. And I will keep you in my prayers. I promise to continue to be transparent about the situation moving forward and be present in the transition of pastors. In fact, on June 1, I will announce that a respected, seasoned and loved priest will assume pastoral duties for these two parishes.

I want to finish by saying this: we have so many wonderful things happening in our parishes and schools, and in our Diocesan offices. I will not let this one incident define us. But I will do everything I can to make sure it never happens again.”



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