Four More Accuse Priests of Sex Abuse
Three Clerics Named in Lawsuits against Allentown Diocese.
By Kathleen Parrish firstname.lastname@example.org
The Morning Call [Allentown PA]
Downloaded March 5, 2004
Saying he wanted to show that the extent of sexual abuse by Catholic priests
is far greater than what was reported in a national study, a Berks County
attorney on Thursday filed three new lawsuits against the Diocese of Allentown
on behalf of four people.
The suits - two of which were filed in Lehigh County and one in Schuylkill
County - bring the total number of lawsuits against the diocese alleging
sexual abuse by priests to eight. All of the alleged victims are being
represented by attorneys Jay Abramowitch of Wyomissing, near Reading,
and Richard Serbin of Altoona.
Named in the suits are the Revs. William J. Shields, who died in 2000;
Francis J. McNelis, who retired in 2002 and is residing in Holy Family
Villa in Bethlehem; and Gabriel Patil, a member of the Barnabite religious
order who is now pastor of St. James Church in Ontario, Canada.
The only accuser named is Vincent Catizone Jr. of Girardville, Schuylkill
County. One of the accusers in Lehigh County is identified as John Doe
II and the other two by their initials.
Each suit consists of 12 counts. The defendants are seeking damages of
more than $50,000 for each count.
The complaints detail abuse that allegedly occurred between 1966 and 1980
when the accusers - all boys - were between ages 6 and 13.
"We're filing them in response to the John Jay report," said
Abramowitch, referring to a survey compiled by the John Jay College of
Criminal Justice in New York City. "There's a great many more coming."
The study, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, shows
that 4 percent or almost 5,000 priests and deacons nationwide - including
27 in the Allentown Diocese - were accused of sexually abusing children
from 1950 to 2002.
Victims' advocates are skeptical of the study because the numbers were
provided by the dioceses rather than independent investigators.
Diocesan spokesman Matt Kerr said Shields and McNelis were among the 27
priests who were investigated by the district attorneys of the counties
in the diocese - Lehigh, Berks, Carbon, Northampton and Schuylkill - for
sexually abusing minors.
"The district attorneys concluded that investigation, and no prosecutable
cases in the five counties were found," Kerr said in a prepared statement.
The statute of limitations in all the cases had expired.
"One of the accused diocesan priests is dead," Kerr said. "Under
diocesan policy, the other diocesan priest is not in active ministry.
The third accused priest is a member of a religious order, the Barnabite
Fathers, and is not incardinated as a priest of the Diocese of Allentown."
(To be incardinated is to be instituted as the chief priest of a church
But that doesn't preclude members of the Barnabite Order from saying Mass.
The local community was founded in 1971, and its priests have served as
weekend assistants in parishes in the Allentown Diocese, as chaplains
at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, and as leaders of retreats and spiritual
Contacted by phone at St. James in Ontario, Patil said he had been notified
of the suit but had no comment. Calls to the Barnabite Spiritual Center
in Bethlehem Township were not returned.
The suit naming Patil involves two accusers who say they were 6 and 7
in 1978 when he began to molest them and that the abuse continued for
Patil, who was serving at Bethlehem Catholic High School at the time,
would invite the boys to his home "under the guise of playing hide-and-seek,"
and then molest them, the suit says.
The suit on behalf of John Doe II says he was an altar boy at St. Ann's
Church in Lansford when Shields sexually abused him in 1972 after a church-sponsored
game of bingo. According to the suit, the 13-year-old boy and a friend
carried the bingo proceeds to Shields at St. Ann's rectory, where the
priest invited the boys to stay and eat treats.
Shields later dismissed the other boy and asked John Doe II to remain
in the rectory. He directed the teen to the couch in the TV room and began
to massage him. Eventually, Shields unbuttoned the boy's pants and fondled
him, the suit says.
When the boy left the rectory, Shields told him, "Let this be our
little secret," according to the suit.
Catizone, who was 10 in 1966 when McNelis allegedly began to abuse him,
was an altar boy and parishioner at St. Joseph's in Girardville.
According to the suit, McNelis performed sex acts on Catizone in his bedroom,
his car, the rectory garage and other rooms in the rectory.
The abuse continued for two to three years until Catizone was 13, the
As with the previous lawsuits, Abramowitch and Serbin are suing the Allentown
Diocese; Bishop Thomas Welsh, former head of the diocese; and Bishop Edward
Cullen because the two-year statute of limitations against individual
priests has expired.
The suits contend the diocese engaged in a systematic coverup to conceal
the abuse by transferring troubled priests to other assignments without
revealing past allegations.
The Rev. William J. Shields
St. Ambrose in Schuylkill Haven, 1958-60;
St. John the Baptist de La Salle in Shillington, 1960-62;
St. Mary's, Hamburg, February-September 1962;
Annunciation BVM in Shenandoah, 1962-67;
St. Paul's in Allentown, 1967-68;
St. Lawrence in Catasauqua, 1968-69;
St. Ann's in Lansford, 1969-72;
St. Peter's in Reading, 1972-74;
St. Nicholas in Weatherly, 1974-95.
The Rev. Francis J. McNelis
Annunciation BVM in Shenandoah, 1965-66;
St. Joseph's in Girardville, 1966-69;
St. Jerome's in Tamaqua, 1969-70;
St. Theresa's in Hellertown, June-September 1970;
St. John Baptist de La Salle in Shillington, 1970-72;
St. Jane Frances de Chantal in Easton, 1972-74;
St. Ann's in Emmaus, 1974-75;
St. Mary's and St. Boniface in St. Clair, 1975-85;
St. Mary's in Hamburg, 1985-93;
St. Ignatius in Sinking Spring, 1993-2002.
The Rev. Gabriel M. Patil
Member of Barnabite Fathers, a religious order named after St. Barnabas.
Its clerics are bound by vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The
local community in Bethlehem was founded in 1971.
In 1990 he was promoted to Provincial Superior of the Barnabite Fathers.
He is now pastor of St. James Church in Ontario, Canada.