The priest at has taken a leave of absence during an ongoing investigation from the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office involving Facebook messages to a minor, according to the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese.
Pittsburgh Catholic Bishop David Zubik said in a letter posted on the parish's website that a complaint was recently made against the Rev. Dan Valentine regarding Facebook postings the St. James priest for six years made to a minor.
“As a result of the complaint, I directed my staff to share all information with the office of the District Attorney of Allegheny County,” Zubik wrote in a letter that was read to church parishioners on Sunday.
Zubik said the DA’s office informed the diocese that while the postings were "a matter of poor judgment," there was no criminal activity involved.
An internal diocese audit is now taking place as a follow up to the district attorney's office findings.
Zubik said he has directed the DA’s office to do a forensic audit of the computers at St. James Parish as well as Valentine's private computer.
The Rev. Ron Lengwin, diocese spokesman, said it is unclear how long the internal investigation will take.
“It is the Bishop’s hope he’ll be able to return to ministry soon,” Lengwin said.
Lengwin could not comment on the nature of the Facebook posts.
Valentine took a leave of absence beginning on May 19, Lengwin said.
The Very Rev. Samuel J. Esposito has assumed the responsibilities as a temporary administrator in the priest’s absence.
“Father Valentine is fully cooperating with this ongoing investigation," Zubik wrote to parishioners. "Given the nature of this matter, Father Valentine has seen the wisdom of beginning a leave of absence until the investigation is completed.”
Valentine was born and raised in Bethel Park. He served in the Marine Corps and was ordained a priest in 1974 for the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, serving in three parishes as a parochial vicar before he became a chaplain in the U.S. Navy.
Zubik has asked parishioners to pray for the Rev. Valentine and for the parish, and said he plans to be present as necessary throughout the coming weeks.