Diocese, Zubik, Wuerl sued in latest round of accusations
By Andrew Goldstein
January 12, 2019
In 1976, a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh took a 13-year-old boy on a trip to Super Bowl X in Miami.
Instead of enjoying a fun trip to watch the Steelers play the Cowboys for the NFL championship, the boy endured what he later described as a “week of hell.”
The priest, the Rev. Thomas M. O’Donnell, forced the boy, Martin Nasiadka, now 56, to share a bed with him and repeatedly sexually assaulted him over several days.
Mr. Nasiadka made those allegations against Father O’Donnell in one of two lawsuits filed Friday by attorney George Kontos in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.
Both lawsuits name the Pittsburgh diocese, Bishop David Zubik and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former Pittsburgh bishop, as defendants, alleging that diocesan officials knew about predator priests and covered for them instead of protecting their victims. State law prohibits people from suing individual priests, the lawsuit says.
A spokesman for Cardinal Wuerl in Washington, D.C., said he could not comment “as we are not aware of the filings.” The Pittsburgh diocese did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Nasiadka met Father O’Donnell in 1975 at Annunciation Catholic School/Church in Perry South when he was 12 years old, according to the lawsuit
The lawsuit said the priest would watch Mr. Nasiadka play basketball across the street from the church and invite him into the rectory for water.
Father O’Donnell eventually made Mr. Nasiadka go into the rectory basement “under the guise of providing a property tour and later to roll coins from church donations,” the lawsuit said.
The priest then began offering Mr. Nasiadka wine, and he started to sexually assault the boy within a month’s time, according to the lawsuit.
The abuse continued about twice a week into 1976, when Father O’Donnell invited Mr. Nasiadka and two other boys on a trip to Super Bowl X.
“During the week of the Super Bowl, O’Donnell required the boys to share a room with him,” the lawsuit said. “He required the plaintiff to share a bed with him and he repeatedly sexually abused the plaintiff over the course of several days.”
A photo of one of the Super Bowl tickets — Section 32, Row 6, Seat 3 — is attached to the lawsuit.
Mr. Nasiadka experienced what he called a “week of hell” and ended all communication with Father O’Donnell after he returned to Pittsburgh.
In the second lawsuit filed by Mr. Kontos, the plaintiff, identified only as John Doe 5, said he met the Rev. Raymond Rhoden in the late 1970s at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic School/Parish in Perry North when he was in fifth grade.
The lawsuit said Father Rhoden coached the school basketball team and became close with John Doe 5, who was on the team from fifth through eighth grade.
John Doe 5, who was also an altar boy, had frequent interactions with Father Rhoden, according to the lawsuit.
“A pattern developed whereby Father Rhoden would retrieve plaintiff from class during school hours and escort him to the church offices under the guise of providing counseling,” the lawsuit said. “From 1978 until 1980, Father Rhoden sexually abused the plaintiff within the church offices and Father Rhoden’s automobile.”
The lawsuits, citing the grand jury report released in August about sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses, said the Pittsburgh diocese, and particularly Cardinal Wuerl, knew of the allegations against Father O’Donnell and Father Rhoden and failed to take proper action. Both priests remained in active ministry and eventually moved to other parishes.
Father O’Donnell’s whereabouts were unclear. His last listed assignment was at Epiphany Church in the Hill District in 2014, and Bishop Zubik removed his priestly faculties last year, according to the diocese.
Father Rhoden withdrew from active ministry in 2002 and died in 2006.