A Harrisburg priest is taking a leave of absence in the wake of a grand jury report showing he played an administrative role in the Harrisburg diocese when allegations arose of child sexual abuse by other Catholic clergy.
Father Paul Helwig, a Columbia native and graduate of Lancaster Catholic High School, issued a statement this week to the St. Margaret Mary Alacoque parish in Dauphin County, saying he was taking a leave although the grand jury did not accuse him of sexual misconduct.
The grand jury report, released Aug. 14, says Helwig “played an important role in the Diocese of Harrisburg’s handling of allegations of priest sexual abuse.”
During the 1990s, Helwig met with victims and wrote memos that outlined the allegations of sexual misconduct by a dozen priests, the report shows.
In his statement Monday to his parish, Helwig wrote that, “With the publication of the (state) attorney general's report on clergy sexual misconduct and related media reports, the peace of the diocese has been shaken and disturbed.
“Every faith community ... is struggling to cope with the impact of the report and the devastating blow it has produced.”
He added, “Due to the publicity and activity affecting our parish and me, I have been granted permission to take a break from ministry in the parish for an unspecified amount of time.”
After a two-year investigation into six Pennsylvania dioceses, the statewide grand jury issued a report claiming that the church protected 301 priests, deacons and seminarians who were accused of sexually abusing children.