Fr. John W. Wellinger – Diocese of Pittsburgh

Father John W. Wellinger

Diocese of Pittsburgh

Fr. John Wellinger Horowitz Law Ordained: May 16, 1970 Withdrawn from active ministry: March 2003 Death: 2011

Assigned as follows:

  • 6/15/1970-5/20/1979: Assistant at St. Wendelin, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 5/21/1975-5/1977: Graduate Studies in Theology, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
  • 6/08/1977-8/31/1979: Assistant Pro Tem, St. Athanasius, West View, PA
  • 6/08/1977-8/31/1979: Assistant Pro Tem, St. Athanasius, West View, PA
  • 9/01/1979-6/29/1981: Faculty of the Pontifical College Josephinum, Worthington, OH for the scholastic year of 1979-1980
  • 6/30/1980-6/29/1981: Assistant Pro Tem, St. Cyril of Alexandria, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 6/30/1981-7/14/1985: Assistant, St. James, Wilkinsburg, PA
  • 7/15/1985-1/25/1987: Parochial Vicar Assistant, St. Clare, Clairton, PA
  • 1/26/1987-6/23/1987: Parochial Vicar Assistant, Our Lady of Grace, Scott Township, PA
  • 6/24/1987-6/24/1991: Pastor, Holy Spirit, West Mifflin, PA
  • 8/01/1987: Campus Ministries, Community College of Allegheny County South Campus, West Mifflin, PA
  • 6/11/1991: Resignation for reasons of health
  • 1/24/1992-2/06/1994: Parochial Vicar (Pro Tem) at St. George, Allentown, PA
  • 2/07/1994-6/01/1995: Parochial Vicar, St. Philip, Crafton, PA
  • 5/16/1995: Resigned for Personal Reasons
  • 5/18/1995: Leave of Absence
  • 1/16/2003: Placed on Administrative Leave

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father John Wellinger:

Diocesan records received pursuant to a Grand Jury subpoena revealed that on the evening of October 8, 1987, Father John Wellinger provided alcohol and drugs to an 18 -year -old parishioner of the Holy Spirit church. The parishioner had a "bad reaction" to the drugs and had to be taken to Shadyside Hospital for treatment. Within days, Wellinger was confronted by the victim's parents. Efforts were made by the church to promote a reconciliation between Wellinger, the victim and the victim's parents. In July 1988, a letter was sent to Bishop Wuerl from "Concerned Parishioners" of Holy Spirit, which outlined concerns about drug use and excessive drinking to the point of intoxication by Wellinger. The parishioners also expressed concern about Wellinger exposing the young people of the church to illegal drugs. On June 22, 1989, Father Theodore Rutkowski received another letter from a parishioner at Holy Spirit listing a number of problems that the parish was having with Wellinger, most of which had been brought up in the letter that was sent the previous year. The list included:
  • Giving drugs and alcohol to teens.
  • Teens in the parish have been warned by their parents about drugs from Father.
  • Young men staying at the parish house.

Father Wellinger’s Pattern of Alcohol and Sexual Abuse

In June 1991, Wellinger was drinking alcoholic beverages with a 24-year-old man in the rectory. Wellinger unbuttoned the man's pants and began to perform oral sex on him without consent. A few days later, the victim reported the incident to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Wellinger was subsequently questioned by Diocesan officials, at which time he admitted to the unsolicited sexual activity with the victim. Wellinger was then sent to St. Michael's Community in St. Louis, Missouri for an evaluation. Wellinger' s absence from the parish was explained as a request for resignation for "reasons of health." In January 1992, a meeting took place between Wuerl and Wellinger. The Bishop agreed that Wellinger could return to priestly ministry and was appointed as Parochial Vicar (Pro Tem) at St. George in Allentown. In September 1995, Diocesan officials met with the parents of a 17-year-old boy. The parents said that a week earlier, their son told them he had been sexually molested by Wellinger. This abuse reportedly occurred in June 1991, when the victim was 13 years old. The victim stated he and some of his friends were watching videos with Wellinger late into the night. They all fell asleep on the floor. The victim awakened to find that Wellinger had put his hands down the victim's pants and was fondling his penis. More than two weeks later, officials from the Diocese of Pittsburgh met with Wellinger to discuss the allegations. Wellinger admitted to spending a lot of time with the victim, but denied consciously touching the victim's genitals and explained that he did fall asleep on the floor with the victim. He said it was "pretty tight quarters" so he may have "unknowingly" touched the victim's genitals.

Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Conspiracy to Cover Up Abuse

The Diocese of Pittsburgh did not report the matter to law enforcement for years. Instead, arrangements were made to provide counseling for the victim. The victim later notified Diocesan officials that during counseling, he was informed that the sexual abuse that occurred was his own fault. By the year 2004, the victim's allegations against Wellinger became part of a lawsuit that accused the Diocese of conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse of minors. By March 21, 2005, the victim had disclosed Wellinger had molested him on several occasions. He stated these incidents occurred both in the rectory where Wellinger lived and at the victim's home. In 2007, Bishop Paul Bradley settled the lawsuit, which included accusations from 32 individuals against 17 priests, for $1.25 million. On November 9, 2012, a woman contacted the Diocese of Pittsburgh to report that her brother had just died in August of that year. She indicated that about a month prior to his death, he told her he had been molested by Wellinger, while Wellinger was assigned to St. James. The woman explained that her brother was an altar boy when the abuse occurred and he was about 11 or 12 years of age at that time. She estimated the assault(s) took place from 1981 to 1982. She added that Wellinger used illegal drugs and he provided drugs to some of the children. Wellinger was never criminally charged for any of the allegations and passed away in 2011. He is buried in Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in McMurray, Washington County, Pennsylvania.

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Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Pittsburgh now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims.  Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com today.