9 File Lawsuit against Pittsburgh Diocese over Alleged Sexual Abuse
By Megan Guza
June 12, 2020
Nine people have filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh alleging sexual abuse by seven priests and years of cover-up by diocesan officials.
The seven priests named in the lawsuit had already appeared and had allegations leveled against them in the August 2018 grand jury report blasting the Pittsburgh Diocese and others for decades of abuse and cover-ups.
The accusers are identified only by their initials, and it includes the estate of one person suing on their behalf. The living plaintiffs all are adults, according to the lawsuit.
The priests named in the lawsuit are Robert Wolk, Leo Burchianti, Arthur Merrell, Paul Pindel, William O’Malley, Raymond Schultz and Lawrence O’Connell. The lawsuit does not give a time frame for the incidents of abuse but names, in addition to the diocese, St. Thomas More, St. Philip Neri, Saints Peter and Paul, St. Gabriel, St. Conrad, St. Martin and St. Joseph churches.
The lawsuit alleges numerous counts of fraud and conspiracy against the diocese and individual churches. The lawsuit notes that charges of civil conspiracy by the estate of the deceased accuser are brought under the state’s wrongful death statute.
Wolk pleaded guilty in 1990 to four counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and corruption of minors for sexually assaulting two altar boys. His last post was at St. Thomas More Church in Bethel Park, from which he resigned in 1987.
Burchianti, who died in 2013, was named in the original 2018 grand jury report as allegedly having “inappropriate contact” with at least eight boys. O’Connell died in 1986, though he was named in a number of lawsuits against the diocese in 2004. He was accused of abusing girls who worked with him in the rectory.
O’Malley, who died in 2008, received treatment for his “ephebophilia” after he admitted a sexual interest in adolescents. He was alleged to have abused multiple minors in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the 2018 report.
Merrell was reported to the diocese in 1997 for allegedly abusing a young teenage boy, and he withdrew from the ministry in 1998.
Pindel died in 1991, and he was alleged to have abused a number of children from the late 1950s to the 1980s.
Schultz was named in the 2018 report as having assaulted a child in Beaver more than a dozen times. He died in 1999.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .