Diocese of Allentown and Bishops Sued by Victim Alleging Sexual Abuse by Former Priest
By Dan Stamm
November 12, 2018
A 29-year-old man is suing a former priest and the Diocese of Allentown, alleging the priest abused him as a child, according to a Philadelphia law firm that filed the lawsuit.
The alleged victim, who is not named, claims Bruno Tucci, a former priest, sexually assaulted him when he was an altar boy at Mount Carmel Church in Nesquehoning in the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to the lawsuit, a copy of which was provided to NBC10.
The law firm, Williams Cedar, said the suit has been filed with Lehigh County Common Pleas Court.
It comes in the wake of a scathing grand jury report detailing sex abuse by hundreds of Catholic clergy over many decades. The Pennsylvania Attorney General's office released the grand jury findings after a ruling by the state Supreme Court.
In addition to the diocese, the suit names past and current bishops, including Bishop Alfred Schlert, the order of the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete and Tucci as defendants.
Tucci, now 76, is a former priest in Lehigh and Berks counties, whose alleged abuses are detailed in the grand jury report. Tucci was removed from the priesthood in 2002.
The grand jury report says that the diocese became aware of sex abuse allegations against Tucci years before the plaintiff in the new suit was allegedly abused by Tucci. But, the suit claims, Tucci was allowed to continue serving as a priest at Mount Carmel.
The plaintiff is seeking financial payment for the "emotional, psychological, and financial damages arising from the abuse," Williams Cedar said in a news release.
Tucci was charged with child sex abuse in Ocean City, Maryland, in 2012. The charges were eventually dropped, according to online court records. His attorney from that case didn't return NBC10's request for comment.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August showed systemic abuse by the Catholic church. The suit alleges negligence on behalf of Church leaders.
"This is a case that’s not just about a child abuser," attorney Gerard Williams of Williams Cedar said. "It’s about an organization that for its own purposes, as we’ve alleged in the complaint, kept the abuser in an active ministry and kept him in close contact with children, including our client."
The Allentown diocese told NBC10 it only became aware of the pending suit on Monday. In a statement, they said abuse has "no place in the Church."
Here is the diocesan statement:
"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. 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. The Diocese recently announced the formation of a compensation and reconciliation program to assist victims and survivors of past clergy sexual abuse. Although compensation alone cannot repair the damage caused to those who were harmed, this program will meaningfully assist in recovery and healing for victims and survivors and their families."