Tag: George Zirwas

florida clergy abuse sexual

Why You Should Care About These Men Who Came to Florida

Bear with us a bit and we’ll tell you who these guys are and why you should know about them.

Hugh Behan left Jefferson City MO, coming to Orlando. So did Martin McCamley who was from Altoona PA. Walter Coleman was in Bridgeport CT but moved to Miami. So did George Zirwas of Pittsburgh PA. Robert J. Brague left Scranton PA for Naples. Richard J. Giuliani left Allentown PA for St. Augustine.

Some moved multiple times. John J. Whiteley of St. Louis MO moved Venice and then Miami. Thomas J. Benestad left Allentown PA and moved to Boca Raton and then Palm Beach.

Timothy Sperber left Harrisburg PA, moving to Plantation, Pembroke Pines, Miami, Venice and Punta Gorda. And Robert E. Spangenberg moved even more – from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina and South Carolina before ending up in Sarasota.

Similarly, John (Jerry) Kucan was in four Pennsylvania towns (Sharon, Bethlehem, Steelton and Beaver Falls), two Wisconsin towns in Wisconsin and two Illinois towns before finding his way to the Sunshine State.

Not to be outdone, however, is Roger A. Sinclair who also spent time in four Pennsylvania towns (Connellsville, Latrobe, Uniontown and Kittanning) then joined the military and moved to California, Kansas, Virginia, Massachusetts, Oregon and ultimately Florida.

Finally, there are other men who – like Kucan and Sinclair- who moved south to unknown Florida towns: John Phillip Schanz (from Erie PA), Stanley M. Gana (from Philadelphia), Roger J. Trott (from Greensburg PA), and Ferdinand B. Demsher and Bernard J. Kaczmarczyk (both from Pittsburgh).

Who are these guys?

Each one is a proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesting Catholic cleric.

And here’s where this gets interesting:

We learned ALL of this from secular sources (mainstream media accounts and law enforcement reports.)

We learned NONE of this from Catholic officials.

“How can this be?” you might ask. “All US bishops have long promised to be ‘open and transparent’ about abuse. In fact, in 2002, they all signed on to a supposedly-binding national ‘charter’ that mandates this kind of disclosure. And many of them have posted predators’ names and assignments on their websites. How come these transfers and moves can still be kept hidden?”

The answer: making promises and keeping promises are not the same.

“Well, who are these ‘secular sources’ you cite and how reliable are they?” you might ask.

They are all publicly-available reports issued in recent years by law enforcement officials and/or a credible, Massachusetts-based non-profit called BishopAccountability.org, which bases its information on court records and mainstream media accounts. (Please check out their outstanding website. And look for the tab on the left hand side of their home page called “Grand Jury and Other Reports.”)

“Wait,” you might ask “Were these child molesters SENT here by bishops or did they move here on their own?”

Some of both. But here’s OUR question: “Does that matter? Almost two decades ago, bishops said they’d start being more honest and forthcoming about predator priests. Don’t they have a moral and civic duty to warn parents, police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public about potentially dangerous men in their jurisdictions, no matter how they got there?”

And one final question: “Who’s responsible for this continued and reckless secrecy and what can be done about it?”

Those answers will come soon in another blog. So please check back with us soon.


Fr. George Zirwas Horowitz Law

Fr. George Zirwas – Diocese of Pittsburgh

Father George Zirwas

Diocese of Pittsburgh

Fr. George Zirwas Horowitz Law


Fr. George Zirwas Horowitz Law

Ordained: September 1979

Permanent Leave of Absence: 11/1995

Death: 2001

Assigned as follows:

  • 10/1979–5/1980: Resurrection, Brookline
  • 5/1980–4/1981: St. Adalbert, South Side
  • 4/1981–2/1982: St. Joseph the Worker, New Castle
  • 2/1982–6/1989: St. Michael, Elizabeth
  • 6/1989–12/1991: St. Bartholomew, Penn Hills
  • 12/1991–5/1994: St. Scholastica, Aspinwall
  • 5/1994–12/1994: St. Joseph, Verona
  • 12/1994–7/1995: Leave of Absence, Personal Reasons
  • 7/1995–11/1995: St. Maurice, Forest Hills

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father George Zirwas:

Father George Zirwas was ordained in September 1979 and was assigned to eight
different parishes until 1995, when he was placed on a leave of absence and has no known assignments after November 1995. This appears to have remained his status until his death in May 2001.

As early as 1987, the Diocese of Pittsburgh was receiving complaints regarding Zirwas. The first involved a little boy and an “incident of inappropriate touch” by Zirwas at St. Joseph the Worker parish, his third assignment. No action was taken.

In November 1988, Diocesan officials met with a mother who reported that her 16-year- old son was given alcohol by Zirwas and that Zirwas fondled the boy’s genitals. That same month, the Diocese received another report from a different victim who revealed that he was groped by Zirwas when he was 17 years old. Zirwas was sent to St. Luke’s Institute for an evaluation in December 1988. Upon his release, he resumed his ministry.

Zirwas received additional complaints in June 1991, when a victim reported that he massaged his feet, calves, thighs, and then groped his penis. The victim informed the Diocese that he was too embarrassed to speak publically regarding the abuse or go to court.

After returning from a leave of absence in 1995, Zirwas met with members of the clergy and requested permission to take an assignment in Miami, Florida.

Zirwas stated that his desire to leave the Diocese was due to “false rumors about him.” He threatened to pursue legal action against other Diocesan personnel for “raising the consciousness of some of the people at St. Joseph Parish concerning his relationship to the public scandals which surfaced in 1988.”

Instead, Zirwas was assigned as Parochial Vicar of St. Maurice in Forest Hills. Within 5 months, the Diocese received another complaint from a victim who reported that Zirwas fondled him and performed oral sex on him when he was approximately 15 years old.

In response, Zirwas was again placed on a leave of absence for “personal reasons.” A status he would keep until the time of his death. After being placed on a leave of absence in 1995, Zirwas relocated to Florida before ultimately moving to Cuba.

During the course of its investigation, the Grand Jury uncovered a ring of predatory priests operating within the Diocese who shared intelligence or information regarding victims as well as exchanging the victims amongst themselves. This ring also manufactured child pornography on Diocesan property, including parishes and rectories. This group included: Zirwas, Francis Pucci, Robert Wolk, and Richard Zula. This group of priests used whips, violence, and sadism in raping their victims.

Zirwas was murdered in his apartment in Havana, Cuba in 2001 and Cardinal  Donald Wuerl—who, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, recently tendered his resignation due to the Grand Jury indictments in Pittsburgh—presided over Zirwas’ funeral.

Contact us today.

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.