Father George Zirwas
Diocese of Pittsburgh
Permanent Leave of Absence: 1995
Assigned as follows:
- 10/1979–5/1980: Resurrection (Brookline, PA)
- 5/1980–4/1981: St. Adalbert (South Side, PA)
- 4/1981–2/1982: St. Joseph the Worker (New Castle, PA)
- 2/1982–6/1989: St. Michael (Elizabeth, PA)
- 6/1989–12/1991: St. Bartholomew (Penn Hills, PA)
- 12/1991–5/1994: St. Scholastica (Aspinwall, PA)
- 5/1994–12/1994: St. Joseph (Verona, PA)
- 12/1994–7/1995: Leave of Absence (Personal Reasons
- 7/1995–11/1995: St. Maurice (Forest Hills, PA)
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 the priest 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 the priest 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 publicly 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 the priest 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.
He was first named publicly as accused in a priest profile in the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.
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 may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so do not delay in reaching out to us.