Ex-altar boy is first in Penn. to file lawsuit against Catholic Church since bombshell AG report
By Corky Siemaszko
November 12, 2018
A former altar boy claimed in a lawsuit Monday that he was molested repeatedly by a Pennsylvania priest who had admitted sexually abusing another boy a decade earlier — and who had been cleared to work with kids by a New Mexico clinic for troubled clergy that was derided in Catholic circles as "Camp Ped."
Bruno Tucci, now 76, allegedly abused the altar boy — who is identified in court papers only as a 29-year-old "John Doe" — between 1999 and 2001 at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Nesquehoning, a small town 30 miles north of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
On one occasion, Tucci allegedly told the then pre-teen boy to "put his arms out like Jesus on the cross" while he fondled his exposed genitals, the lawsuit states.
"He is a broken young man," the accuser’s chief lawyer, Gerald Williams, said during a press conference in Philadelphia. "He veers from anger to despair to depression."
Williams, who declined to identify his client, said the man was motivated to come forward after Tucci was identified in a bombshell Pennsylvania grand jury report in August as one of 301 "predator priests" who preyed on thousands of children in parishes in six dioceses across the state.
This is the first lawsuit seeking damages based on information compiled by Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s investigators.
Unlike the vast majority of the other victims, Tucci’s accuser is not prevented from suing for damages by the state’s statute of limitations law. The age cut off for filing civil claims is 30.
"He is 29 and if he was a few years older we would not be filing this lawsuit," Williams said of his client, who still lives in the Allentown area. "This abuser was abusing children before our client was even born."
Defrocked in 2007, Tucci now lives in Maryland and could not be immediately reached for comment. The disgraced ex-priest served in the Allentown Diocese from April 1971 through March 2002 and was one of 37 priests from that particular diocese named as sexual predators in the grand jury report.
Williams said he intends to use the lawsuit to identify other priests who preyed on children in the Allentown Diocese and convince other alleged victims to come forward.
In addition to Tucci, the lawsuit targets former Allentown Diocese Bishop Edward Cullen and the current bishop of that diocese, Alfred Schlert. Also named in the lawsuit is the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, which operated a facility for wayward priests in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, from 1965 to 2002.
"It was known as 'Camp Ped' in Catholic circles back in 1990s," Williams said. "It was started to help priests with drinking problems and did a good job of that. But it had no experience or ability to treat pedophilia."
Nevertheless, Roman Catholic dioceses from across the country would send priests accused of having "improper attraction to children" to the facility for treatment, Williams said.
"In reality, the Jemez Springs facility was used routinely to ‘recycle’ unreformed pedophilic priests back into active ministry where they would have regular contact with children," the suit states.
Tucci was sent there after a young man told the Allentown Diocese in 1991 that the priests molested him when he was 14, according to the lawsuit.
"After Tucci admitted his guilt in 1991, the Diocese neither disciplined him nor advised parishioners of his misconduct, nor warned parishioners of his perverse proclivities," the suit states.
Instead, Tucci was dispatched to New Mexico where after several months he was "cleared" to return to the Pennsylvania parishes where he had been serving, the suit states.
"In 1993, the victim who had complained in 1991 saw that Tucci had been returned to full priestly status, and reiterated his complaint and his concerns for other potential victims to the Diocese," the suit states. "In response, the Diocese did nothing."
Six years later, Williams said, Tucci preyed on his client.
It wasn’t until 2002 that the diocese, after the clerical sex scandal erupted nation and worldwide, "removed Tucci from active ministry by permitting him to retire," according to the lawsuit. And five years later, Tucci was booted out of the priesthood.
In the meantime, a third victim came forward in May 2002 and told the Allentown Diocese that Tucci had molested him between 1977 and 1978 when he was a child.
"Since becoming Bishop on August 31, 2017, Bishop Alfred Schlert has acted immediately on any allegations, removing the priest from ministry and notifying law enforcement," the Allentown Diocese said in a statement. "Abuse is abhorrent and has no place in the Church. Bishop Schlert has apologized to victims and has set a clear tone of zero tolerance, and of keeping children safe."
Neither Cullen nor anybody else in the diocese reported Tucci’s alleged abuse of children to the police, Williams said.
Cullen did not respond to NBC News' requests for comment.