Lawsuit alleges priest sexually assaulted altar boy at Luzerne church
By Michael P. Buffer
July 08, 2020
A Berks County man claims a priest sexually assaulted him in the mid-1970s when he was an altar boy between the ages of 10 and 13 at Sacred Heart Church in Luzerne Borough, according to a lawsuit that also alleges the Diocese of Scranton covered up prior incidents of the priest sexually abusing boys.
The priest named in the lawsuit is the late Rev. Robert Caparelli, an admitted and notorious child predator who is believed to have molested multiple boys during his 30 years as a diocesan priest.
In separate cases in the early 1990s, Caparelli was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting two altar boys between 1985 and 1989, in a Pike County rectory. Caparelli pleaded guilty to the abuse and died in prison in 1994.
The diocese settled at least three lawsuits filed by Caparelli’s victims. Two were filed by the parents of the Pike County boys and alleged the priest had HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, when he sexually abused their sons.
The latest lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Luzerne Court Court. Daniel F. Monahan, an attorney from Exton, represents Joseph Storz, the plaintiff from Berks County. Storz, 56, is seeking punitive damages and a jury trial.
“The Diocese of Scranton has not yet received a copy of the lawsuit and does not comment on pending litigation,” diocese spokesman Eric Deabill said Thursday in an email.
The suit says Storz met Caparelli while serving as an altar boy at the church in Luzerne. Caparelli told him “his actions were acceptable because he liked him and and he was ‘special,’” the suit said.
The suit claims the Diocese of Scranton, including former leaders Bishop J. Carroll McCormick and Bishop John O’Connor, knew of Caparelli’s sexual interest in boys. The suit also notes the state grand jury investigation from 2018 that claimed at least 59 priests in the diocese were child predators.
According to the grand jury report, a Hazleton police officer in 1968 wrote to McCormick to report Caparelli. McCormick, who served as Diocese of Scranton bishop from March 1966 to February 1983, confronted Caparelli and wrote himself “a secret note” found in confidential diocesan archives, the report said.
Caparelli’s other assignments from the diocese included: Queen of Peace, Hawley; St. Francis, Nanticoke; Most Precious Blood, Hazleton; Central Scranton High School, Scranton; Bishop O’Reilly High School, Kingston; and Mercy Center, Dallas.