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  DVD Lobbies for Abuse Victims

By Chris Foreman
Tribune-Review [Pennsylvania]
April 26, 2006

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribunereview/news/cityregion/s_447516.html

A former Greensburg man who has accused a priest of raping him in the 1970s is featured in a DVD that encourages state legislators to give a one-year window for past child victims of sexual abuse to file lawsuits.

The Pennsylvania chapters of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, shared the 15-minute production Monday at a legislative forum on child abuse legislation in Harrisburg.

"To this day, I still shudder inside," Brian G. Guarino, formerly of Greensburg, says in the DVD about the alleged abuse by the Rev. Roger J. Trott.

Guarino is one of six alleged abuse survivors who appears in the video, said Tammy Lerner, the state government affairs liaison for SNAP.

The DVD also features an interview with the wife of Brian Iadarola, who claimed an assistant parish priest sexually molested him when he was 10, but authorities discouraged bringing charges. Iadarola, 37, of Bellefonte, Centre County, committed suicide in February.

SNAP intends to mail copies of the video to legislators in both chambers because only a handful of lawmakers and staff representatives attended the forum, Lerner said.

In the video, Guarino, 42, of Laurel, Md., claims Trott drove him to a dark, wooded parking lot behind a seminary and raped him while Guarino was an altar boy at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, in Greensburg.

Guarino filed a lawsuit in Westmoreland County last year against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg and retired Bishop Anthony G. Bosco. Guarino contends the abuse happened from 1973-76, but diocese officials said they were not informed until 2002.

The case is pending. Trott is not a defendant.

The diocese removed Trott from the ministry in 1987 after he was arrested on charges he had sexual contact with altar boys while pastor of St. John Baptist de la Salle Church in Delmont. Trott moved to New York after he pleaded guilty to corruption of minors and went through a probationary treatment program.

In November, Guarino sent about 2,000 letters to parishioners outlining his allegations against Trott and urging them to contact lawmakers about a change in the state's statute of limitations for alleged sexual abuse of minors.

SNAP officials have been touting a House bill that Rep. Doug Reichley, R-Lehigh County, introduced in December. The bill would create a one-year window for alleged victims who are barred from filing suit now because the statute of limitations has passed.

SNAP also wants legislators to eliminate the statute of limitations in criminal cases for sexual offenses against children. Currently, state laws give a victim until his or her 30th birthday to file sexual abuse charges or file a civil lawsuit against an alleged abuser.

Victim advocates argue that some children who have been abused do not find the courage to publicize their accusations until adulthood decades later.

Meanwhile, a perpetrator might get away without any penalties in criminal or civil court, said Richard M. Serbin. The Blair County attorney has represented Guarino and more than 150 other alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse.

"It's something that needs attention because victims of abuse really have no justice," Serbin said.

SNAP's video asks legislators to enact reforms recommended in September after a grand jury in Philadelphia ended the nation's longest investigation into alleged abuse by priests.

A 418-page report found that leaders of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia actively concealed sexual abuse for decades, but no criminal charges could be filed against the church or its priests because of the constraints of state law.

SNAP is concerned that legislators have seen the issue only as "a Philadelphia problem," Lerner said.

Nobody has signed on as a co-sponsor of Reichley's bill.

"We just really wanted to educate legislators that this isn't just a Philadelphia problem," Lerner said. "It's a statewide problem, and they need to sit up and take notice."

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which lobbies on behalf of Pennsylvania's Catholic churches, has opposed the one-year window for civil lawsuits, arguing that it would be unfair and costly to churches.

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state legislatures could not change the criminal statute of limitations to prosecute allegations retroactively.

Chris Foreman can be reached at cforeman@tribweb.com or 724-425-2338.

 
 

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