Judge Rules Suit against Priest Accused of Impregnating Teen Can Proceed

By Holly Herman
Reading Eagle
January 21, 2011

Rev. Luis A. Bonilla Margarito

A Berks County judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit Thursday against a former Reading Central Catholic High School priest accused of impregnating a teenager.

Senior Judge Albert A. Stallone said the parents' lawsuit accusing the Rev. Luis A. Bonilla Margarito of causing emotional distress and alienating their daughter from them will proceed.

Stallone also denied a request to dismiss allegations against the Allentown Diocese, Reading Central Catholic, Bishop John O. Barres and retired Bishop Edward P. Cullen.

The parents, who live in Muhlenberg Township, filed the suit in August, accusing the defendants of failing to prevent Bonilla from having sex and impregnating their daughter. The parents claim the relationship occurred when Bonilla was assigned to counsel their daughter, then a senior, during the 2008-09 school year.

The parents are seeking at least $300,000 in damages.

Their daughter is now 19 and believed to be living in Norristown with Bonilla, 41, and their baby.

Diocese officials removed Bonilla from his duties as school chaplain and pastor of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Reading and sent him to a treatment facility in November 2009 when they learned of the relationship, said Joseph F. Leeson Jr., a Bethlehem attorney representing the diocese.

Diocese officials have said they have taken steps to defrock Bonilla.

Bonilla's lawyer, Kurt B. Geishauser of Reading, argued the parents cannot prove Bonilla caused emotional distress.

"Sexual intercourse between consenting adults does not rise to extreme, outrageous conduct," Geishauser said.

Kenneth Millman, a Wyomissing lawyer representing the parents, said Bonilla continued the relationship after the parents complained to the school and diocese.

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