GREENSBURG — The pastor of several Fayette County churches has been relieved of his ministry duties by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, pending an investigation of charges dating to a period shortly after his tenure at a church in Indiana County.
“Earlier this week, the Diocese received a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against Msgr. Michael W. Matusak dating back almost 20 years,” the diocese stated late Wednesday afternoon.
The allegation apparently covers an event that happened after then-Father Matusak left Church of the Good Shepherd in Kent, where he was known as “Father Mike” and was its first pastor from 1989 to 1997.
The diocese also reported that the matter “is now in the hands of law enforcement” in Westmoreland County, where Matusak was serving after his tenure in Kent.
“This is the first and only allegation the diocese has ever received against Msgr. Matusak,” the diocese said. “A credible allegation does not mean it has been substantiated or proven. This announcement in no way implies Msgr. Matusak is guilty.”
But a support group for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings has called on Bishop Edward C. Malesic to go to every parish in the four-county diocese and reach out to anyone who may have been abused by Matusak to contact law enforcement.
“Report this abuse to law enforcement, not the church officials,” said Judy Jones, Midwest Regional Leader of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “They are not the proper officials to be investigating child sex crimes.”
SNAP, founded in 1988, calls itself the world’s oldest and largest support group for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings, with more than 25,000 supporters.
Matusak was transferred in 1997 from Good Shepherd to St. Pius in Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County. In 2000 he also was given responsibility over Transfiguration in Mount Pleasant, overseeing its closure due to structural problems in 2002.
“As per diocesan policy the allegation was phoned into the PA ChildLine, and the appropriate district attorney (John Peck of Westmoreland County) was contacted the same day,” the diocese said Wednesday.
PA ChildLine, (800) 932-0313, is operated by the state Department of Human Services.
Jones reiterated a request she made Monday for Malesic to put copies of the Greensburg diocese grand jury report in the back of churches in his diocese.
“Everyone needs to read this report to learn how church officials have handled child sex crimes,” Jones said.
She also urged “anyone who may have been abused by Matusak” to call state Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s hotline at (888) 538-8541.
Shapiro inherited the grand jury investigation started in March 2016 by then-Attorney General Kathleen Kane that resulted in the report made public on Aug. 14.
The Greensburg Diocese has said that it “cooperated fully with the investigation, providing “thousands of pages of requested records dating to 1947, four years before the diocese was formed” out of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
“The report gave a mostly critical overview of how past leadership sometimes misjudged the gravity of child sexual abuse,” Bishop Malesic said in a homily recorded for presentation this past weekend in churches throughout his four-county diocese.
“Looking back, we should have known better and done better, but we didn’t,” Malesic said. “Long ago, in the Diocese of Greensburg, priests were sometimes moved by bishops even when it was clear that these priests had abused children. This cannot be accepted: it is a cause of shame for us.”
Malesic also said, “as ashamed as I am of the disgusting misconduct revealed in the grand jury report, I am truly proud of the victims who came forward to tell their story.”
Matusak was not on the original list of 21 priests from the Greensburg Diocese who were named in a grand jury report released last week.
Matusak was elevated to the title of monsignor on Feb. 28, 2005, transferred to Fayette County in 2008, and in recent years had been Vicar Forane or dean of Deanery V, covering churches in parts of Fayette and Westmoreland counties. Until June he was pastor of St. Therese, Little Flower of Jesus in Uniontown and administrator of SS. Cyril & Methodius in Fairchance and St. Hubert in Point Marion, all Fayette County.
On June 27, Malesic retained Matusak as pastor at St. Therese, Little Flower of Jesus, but reassigned him to also take charge of St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph and St. Mary (Nativity) parishes, all also in Uniontown.
“As per diocesan policy, Msgr. Matusak was removed from his place of ministry and relieved of all parish duties within 24 hours of the allegation and will remain on leave until authorities complete their investigation,” the diocese said.
Matusak, a native of Latrobe, was ordained on May 3, 1975. He was a parochial vicar or assistant pastor at St. Barbara in Harrison City, Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg and St. Agnes in North Huntingdon Township before he was transferred to Indiana County.
There he oversaw the establishment of Good Shepherd on Oct. 16, 1989, by the late Bishop Anthony G. Bosco, out of a merger of the churches of Holy Cross of Iselin, St. Gertrude of McIntyre and St. Anthony of Aultman.
Matusak also was there for the blessing of the site of the Church of the Good Shepherd on June 19, 1991, and the dedication of a completed church on April 26, 1992.
Court records for the four counties of the diocese show no record of any charges being filed against Matusak.