Monthly Archives: October 2016

Corruption and sexual abuse of children by clergy in the Pittsburgh Diocese


Mike Ference posted a letter today on Facebook to the parents of a child who killed himself due to the corruption of the Pittsburgh Diocese. This man has been tirelessly working to expose the evil behavior of the members of the clergy in Pittsburgh, PA  for 25 years and has reached a dead end every time. He refuses to give up.     

Due to the power and money that the Catholic Church has, the most vulnerable and helpless people in our society are “legally” allowed to be abused; not just by the courts and CPS and APS, but by the Roman Catholic Church clergy. The heartbreaking stories of adults who were raped and sexually abused as children by Catholic priests are in the thousands, possibly higher, yet the RCC still stands, and people still attend services and donate their money. This will never stop until all people raise their voices in protest and stop supporting this institution.       

God Bless you Mike Ference. You will see justice for your son.  

by Mike Ference

October 6, 2016

I do not expect to be called before the grand jury investigating clergy sex abuse and countless cover-ups in the Pittsburgh Diocese. Therefore my next plan is to pass out copies of the following essay I have written at the University of Pittsburgh vs Notre Dame football game, maybe at the bowl game that Pitt may be invited to or some other national event where real journalists might be interested in my investigation.

Read for yourself and judge for yourself:

An Open Letter to William and Kimberly Gaines proud parents of Billy Gaines, a former University of Pittsburgh student and football player who fell to his death due to the corruption of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese.

Sadly, Mr. & Mrs. Gaines I have to be the one to tell you that Billy’s untimely death could have and should have been prevented. For  over 25 years I’ve been trying to expose the dysfunctional and deviant behavior of a former Catholic priest from the Pittsburgh Diocese. His name is Father John Wellinger. Billy was not the only University of Pittsburgh student to be victimized by a Catholic priest, nor the only young man to lose his life because of a Catholic priest from the Pittsburgh Diocese.
I can assure you that I have tried everything imaginable to expose the criminal behavior of Catholic priests in the Pittsburgh Diocese, especially Father John Wellinger. Had I successfully exposed Wellinger, there’s no doubt in my mind, your son, Billy would still be alive.

What’s worse, there were so many others who could easily have exposed Wellinger but deliberately covered-up his crimes; again had any one of these dozens and dozens of people done the right thing, your son Billy would be alive today.

I take no pleasure in writing this letter even though I know it may finally force people to confront the truth. And, I know it won’t bring Billy back, but it might save others. I have a feeling Billy would want to help others. Here’s what I know for sure and why Billy could still be alive today if only those people in charge would have done the right thing. From 1981 to 1985 Father John Wellinger abused a young boy at St. James Parish in Wilkinsburg where Wellinger served as the assistant pastor. The young boy’s name was Jeffrey Wennersten who passed away at the age of 42, leaving a young son. Just weeks before Jeffrey died he shared details of the abuse he suffered at the hands of Pittsburgh Catholic priest Father John Wellinger.

Sometime in early 1987, possibly February or March, Father John Wellinger and a University of Pittsburgh student, Greg Witkowski were sharing beers in an Oakland apartment that Greg rented with his brother, who was also a Pitt student. Greg admitted to me that Wellinger often provided alcohol to Greg and his brother. On this occasion Wellinger also drugged Greg with a substance that knocked him out for hours. When Greg regained consciousness he intuitively called 911. Scared, Greg said he raced down the flights of stairs to meet the EMS crew and ambulance that transported the still dazed student to Presbyterian University Hospital, now known as University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

For whatever reason, the emergency room doctors refused to treat Greg even though he ingested an unfamiliar substance, administered by a lay person, with malicious intentions and alcohol was part of the mix. This was years before the Boston scandal exploded, so the Catholic Church still maintained its grip on plenty of institutions, it appears that the University of Pittsburgh was one of them and its affiliate, Presbyterian University Hospital. Father Wellinger trailed the ambulance to the emergency room and took Witkowski by surprise. Staying calm, Witkowski asked Wellinger to fetch his nurse. When the nurse arrived, Witkowski explained that Wellinger was the person who had drugged him. No police were called, not even hospital security. Witkowski’s parents Robert and Ann were summoned to the hospital and asked to take their son home. I do not know who or if anyone ever paid the hospital bill.

According to former Clairton Public Safety Director William Scully, he explained to me in 1990 that a hospital worker advised Robert and Ann Witkowski not to press charges and further cautioned the parents that the Catholic Church was too powerful to challenge. Several days later Robert Witkowski would confront Father John Wellinger at Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin, PA. Father Wellinger was the parish priest and the Witkowski family were members. At the time Robert Witkowski came banging on the front door of the rectory, a parish council meeting was going on with several eyewitnesses to the event.

I interviewed one of the eyewitnesses who was also Father Wellinger’s secretary. Her name is Marta Placek. According to Placek the council members were concerned that Robert Witkowski was drunk and may have had a gun, so West Mifflin Police were called. No charges or arrests were made. My guess is if any questions were asked by West Mifflin police, they quickly forgot the answers.

Over the years I spoke with Robert Witkowski on several occasions. He never volunteered very much information. He did admit that he received a letter from the legal department of the Pittsburgh Diocese or one of their law firms commanding Robert Witkowski to stay off the property at Holy Spirit Church and to stay away from Father Wellinger. If any of this had been exposed, like it should have been, college students throughout the Pittsburgh area would have been warned about Catholic priests such as Father John Wellinger. Freshman orientation would have been the appropriate time to issue the proper alerts. Sadly, too many people failed to take their jobs seriously. Worse yet, folks in charge succumbed to the wishes of evil men in black robes; most likely because they are scared to death of Catholic Church hierarchy.

Your son Billy wasn’t the only boy victimized by Father John Wellinger. There were many; too many. Here are some of them, all before your son even thought about playing football at the University of Pittsburgh. One boy was Chris Mathews an 11-year-old altar boy who served under Father John Wellinger at Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin, PA. The same parish that Greg Witkowski and his family attended. Although I do not know the details of the sexual abuse, I know Chris Mathews very well and his father, as well. His abuse took place in 1989. Also in 1989, a young boy from Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin took his own life. He killed himself with a shotgun blast. Was this young man another victim of Father John Wellinger? I do not know.

As a civilian investigator, I have very few resources to conduct an investigation. Without a badge or even a press pass, most people would shy away from talking to me; all fearful of the Catholic Church.

1989 was not a good year for former altar boys of John Wellinger. Robert Butler served under Father John Wellinger at St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Clairton, PA. Butler also attended the parochial school; it was known as Clairton Central Catholic. Butler and his circle of friends were often invited to the rectory for fun and games with Father Wellinger. The game room had a pool table and pinball machines, I was told. Butler would kill himself with what I believe was a 32-caliber pistol on his way to Serra Catholic High School in McKeesport, PA. One shot to his right temple, he probably died instantly. Before killing himself, Butler tried to murder my son, Adam with a bullet discharged inches away from the back of my son’s skull. Miraculously, my son survived and thrived. It’s the main reason why after 25 years, I’m still fighting to expose Father John Wellinger and all the harm he did to others. There’s no doubt in my mind that Wellinger sexually abused Robert Butler.

I spoke to many people about Wellinger. I would state with absolute certainty that Wellinger’s sexual activity with young boys, young men and older women was common knowledge in every parish where the preying priest served.

The women who worked in the cafeteria and volunteered to watch the children on the playground at Clairton Central Catholic knew to keep their children away from Wellinger. According to Mrs. Ann Weeks, the cafeteria manager at the time, Wellinger liked to parade around the playground covering the younger children faces with his long black rope and smothering their heads into his genitals; separated only by a thin layer of clothing. One of the things I learned through my 25 years investigating the Catholic Church is that Catholic parents don’t give a damn about other children. As long as their children’s heads weren’t being squeezed in Wellinger’s private parts; that’s all that mattered.

Wellinger was at St. Clare of Assisi in Clairton in 1985 and 86 or so. I was told by a Catholic priest that a man with the last name of Volmer went to talk to Father Charles Bober and complained about Father Wellinger’s predatory behavior and nothing was done. Father Bober is a big time operator in the Pittsburgh Diocese raising millions of dollars for the Cardinal Donald Wuerl Catholic High School. He’s got a plum position in a financially well-off parish church in the north hills section of Pittsburgh, possibly a reward for keeping his nose clean and his mouth shut.

Again, if this is true, your son Billy should have and could have been alive today.

Back in 1987 or 1988, Marta Placek, Wellinger’s secretary at Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin, PA went to the Pittsburgh Diocese to protest Wellinger’s behavior at Holy Spirit Church. Her complaint included Wellinger providing living arrangements for a young man, possibly from St. James Parish in Wilkinsburg, PA, yet another parish that witnessed at least one young man who suffered as a result of Wellinger’s demons. Instead of Placek’s concerns being taken seriously, she was labeled a gossip hound by Pittsburgh Diocesan spokesman, Father Ron Lengwin. Certainly, by the time Placek lodged her complaints, Wellinger’s dossier was simply too depraved to reveal. One could easily make the argument that Wellinger’s file was so wicked and dreadful, he may have been able to blackmail church hierarchy. In any event, if any of Wellinger’s alleged crimes would have been and should have been reported,  your son, Billy and his friends would have known better than to trust a Catholic priest overly eager to offer alcohol to underage young men.

After all these years something made me reach out to you, William and Kimberly Gaines. I hope it makes a difference. I hope I did the right thing. I know your son, Billy was a good boy and a very tough football player. I tried and tried to expose the truth. I wish I could have done more. I really believe Billy could be alive today.

Maybe, just maybe, it was Billy who spurred me on to write this letter. Maybe someday, we’ll find out.

God Bless you William and Kimberly Gaines and God Bless
Billy.

Warm regards,
Mike Ference

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