Appeal in Priest-Sex Lawsuit Is Dismissed
A City Woman Had Claimed She Was Molested When She Was a Student in Central Catholic High School
By Holly Herman
Reading Eagle [Pennsylvania]
December 22, 2006
In a win for the Diocese of Allentown, the State Superior Court has upheld a Berks County judge's dismissal of a lawsuit accusing the diocese of covering up the molestation of a former Central Catholic High School student in 1992.
On Sept. 30, 2005, Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl dismissed the suit filed by Diana L. Vojtasek accusing the diocese of failing to prevent a priest, the Rev. James F. Gaffney, from molesting her.
Superior Court decided that Schmehl properly ruled the suit was filed 10 years after the two-year statute of limitations for such cases.
Vojtasek, now 31, of Reading was seeking more than $700,000 from the diocese, Central Catholic and Bishops Edward P. Cullen and Thomas J. Welsh.
Vojtasek's lawyer, Jay N. Abramowitch of Wyomissing, argued that Vojtasek was unaware the diocese knew Gaffney molested her at the school.
Abramowitch said he would ask Superior Court to reconsider its decision.
If Superior Court turns down the request, Abramowitch said he will appeal to the state Supreme Court.
"If this holds up, it will be a blow to other cases we have in which people can prove that the diocese lied to parents of victims," Abramowitch said.
Joseph F. Leeson Jr., a Northampton County lawyer representing the diocese, said Vojtasek reported the abuse by Gaffney to Central Catholic officials in 1992 when she was 18.
Leeson said the suit, which was filed Sept. 28, 2004, was filed 10 years too late.
Abramowitch said the school knew Gaffney was a molester and did not notify the parents.
Instead, Abramowitch said, Gaffney was transferred to another school.
Superior Court agreed with Abramowitch that the diocese did not notify Vojtasek's parents of the molestation.
However, the court ruled that was not a valid reason to wait 12 years to file the suit.
According to court records:
Gaffney befriended Vojtasek, who was having family problems, when she was a 16-year-old student at Central Catholic.
Gaffney then had sexual relations with Vojtasek in his home and car and in the high school office.
After a friend of Vojtasek reported the abuse to officials, Gaffney was transferred to St. Frances de Chantal school in Easton.
When Vojtasek's parents later confronted Central Catholic officials, they told her Gaffney did not harm her daughter.
Contact reporter Holly Herman at 610-478-6291 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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