Judge: Woman's Lawsuit against Diocese Can Continue

NEPA News [Pennsylvania]
February 7, 2004

A woman can continue her lawsuit against a Roman Catholic diocese and the nation's oldest Benedictine monastery because she learned only two years ago of her son's claims that he was abused by three priests, a judge ruled.

Westmoreland County Judge Gary Caruso turned away claims by the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and the St. Vincent Archabbey that the Port Matilda woman's lawsuit was not filed within the statute of limitations for sexual abuse.

The alleged abuse began in 1980.

"The point at which the complaining party should reasonably be aware that he or she has suffered an injury is generally an issue of fact to be determined by the jury," Caruso ruled.

The judge also denied objections by the diocese and the archabbey on Monday that the woman's son did not witness the abuse and her son should have filed the lawsuit. The woman sued the archabbey, the three priests and the Altoona diocese, which includes the church where the lawsuit claims the boy was first molested.

St. Vincent spokesman Don Orlando said the three priests have all been removed and have no contact with students. He declined to comment further.

Calls to the Altoona diocese were not immediately returned Saturday.

In her lawsuit, filed last year, the woman claims her son told her in July 2002 that he was sexually abused by three priests while he was an altar boy in 1980 and 1981. She claims that learning of the abuse has caused mental anguish, humiliation, nightmares and increased risk of a heart attack, among other conditions.

She also claims that she is in counseling and her son, who is in his 30s, is hospitalized.

The abuse began when a priest was transferred to St. John the Evangelist Church in Bellefonte in 1980 to fill in for vacationing priests, according to the lawsuit. The boy, who was then 16, was an altar boy at the church.

The priest gave the boy marijuana and alcohol and then fondled him and performed sex acts on him, the woman claims.

The abuse continued until 1981, when the boy stayed at the St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, under the guise of meeting Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, according to the lawsuit. The teen was sexually abused by three priests, the lawsuit states.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.