Bishop David Zubik called it his "nightmare," and anyone can understand why. He was accused a week ago in a blog post by a 45-year-old man of sexual misconduct that allegedly took place at Quigley Catholic High School, where then-Father Zubik was vice principal in the 1980s.
The bishop of Pittsburgh will be the first to tell you that such allegations are serious and taken seriously by the Catholic diocese. He follows a policy of zero-tolerance on child abuse by priests, an approach that was established by his predecessor, now-Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and that became a standard for the national church.
That's why Bishop Zubik took the difficult and commendable step Wednesday of holding a news conference to tell what he knew and to answer questions on the claims spinning on the web.
The accuser from Beaver County (the Post-Gazette does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse) said that he was molested by a priest at age 13 and by another priest at age 23. He said that when he met with the bishop after reporting that abuse, he recovered a forgotten memory of having been molested by him at Quigley. He also said that minutes after that encounter he was molested by a Sister of St. Joseph working at the high school.
Bishop Zubik said on his own behalf that "no such behavior occurred, not any semblance of such behavior. The accusation is false, offensive and outrageous." He said the man was angry at him because the bishop wouldn't let him serve as a church volunteer because of a criminal record.
The Post-Gazette determined that a man with the same name, age and location pleaded guilty to a charge of indecent exposure in 2004 and had three other convictions between 1989 and 1994 involving other offenses.
The Beaver County district attorney, who was notified by the bishop on Sept. 1 of the man's accusation, said there is "no basis of law or fact" to support it and that the claim was "offensive."
No doubt that's a relief to Bishop Zubik. But it didn't make his decision to provide full disclosure any easier. His desire to engage the subject head on and in public was not the easy call, but it was the right one.