Greensburg diocese removes Bishop Connare’s name from conference center
The Greensburg Catholic Diocese removed the name of the late Bishop William Connare from a retreat center in Unity Township, Bishop Edward Malesic said Wednesday.
The move was the latest of a series of aftershocks rippling across the state in the wake of the Aug. 14 grand jury report that detailed seven decades of priest sexual abuse allegations and cover-ups by church leaders in six dioceses across the state, including Greensburg and Pittsburgh.
Malesic said the decision to strike Connare’s name from the center was made at the request of several survivors of priest sexual abuse who said it was troubling to see the name of a bishop accused of covering-up abuse on the highway marquee along Route 30.
A committee of lay advisors working in conjunction with Malesic settled on the facility’s new name -- Christ Our Shepherd Center.
“My heart does go out to victims, and I heard from several survivors that it would be helpful to them if the name of the Connare Center was changed,” Malesic said. “They had experienced abuse as minors themselves and they were just asking that I consider doing that. I didn’t see it as a demand, but a request. They said that when they’d go past the sign it reminded them of what happened during their childhood.”
Connare died in 1995 at age 83. He was Greensburg’s longest-serving bishop, having led the diocese from 1960-87.
A state grand jury report assailed Connare for concealing allegations of child sexual abuse against priests in the diocese, moving abusive priests from parish to parish without warning, agreeing to accept an admitted pedophile priest from another state and seeking “benevolent bishops” to accept priests finally deemed too dangerous to continue working in the Greensburg diocese.
The retreat center was built as a seminary in 1964 on 180 acres on a hill high above Route 30. It was originally named St. Joseph’s Hall and later St. Joseph’s Center when the seminary closed.
In 2007, then-Bishop Lawrence Brandt announced it would be renamed the Bishop Connare Center to honor his predecessor’s legacy.
Malesic said changing the center’s name marks the beginning of a new policy within the diocese. Names of any clergy on a diocesan list of credible and substantiated abusers also will be removed from any building in the diocese.
“Moving forward, nothing in the diocese will be named after a bishop, priest or deacon,” he said.
The new policy is the most recent development spurred by the searing grand jury report that detailed allegations of sexual abuse and cover ups in involving more than 1,000 children and 301 priests.
Shock waves began rocking the state several days in advance of the release of the report when Bishop Ronald Gainer publicly posted the names of all credibly accused clergy on the Harrisburg Diocese website. In what many believe was an unprecedented move, Gainer also ordered the names of all prior bishops stricken from diocesan facilities, saying the grand report detailed their failure to protect children.
Last week. Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh Diocese announced Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s name was being removed from North Catholic High School in Cranberry at the request of the cardinal. In the days prior to the announcement, thousands of students, parents and alumni signed a petition demanding Wuerl’s name be removed. Their petitions cited the grand jury report that said Wuerl, who was bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese from 1988 -2006, acted against abusive priests in some instances but was at other times complicit in covering up abuse.