Suits Claim Diocese Coverup of Ex-Priests

By Ann Rodgers
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [Pennsylvania]
March 17, 2004

Six more complaints have been filed against the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh concerning its handling of two former priests accused of sexually abusing minors 20 to 30 years ago.

Yesterday, attorneys Richard Serbin and Alan Perer filed complaints on behalf of five men who claim that the diocese conspired to cover up abuse by John Hoehl, who Bishop Donald Wuerl permanently banned from ministry in 1988. All say the abuse occurred when Hoehl was headmaster at Quigley Academy in Baden from 1971 to 1985.

Also yesterday, Serbin filed a second complaint concerning Eric Diskin, who Wuerl removed from ministry in April 2002. The new complaint says that Diskin abused an 11-year-old boy in 1976-77, when Diskin was a newly ordained priest at St. Paul Church in Butler.

The suits are not against the former priests, because the statute of limitations for civil suits expires when the accuser turns 20. Serbin's strategy is to bypass the statute of limitations by suing the diocese for conspiracy, maintaining that the two-year statute of limitations did not begin running until 2002, when his clients say they realized they were victims of a conspiracy.

Hoehl and Diskin resigned from the priesthood after Wuerl banned them from ministry.

"I think it has been clearly shown that we have followed our policies and immediately removed from ministry any priest against whom there was a credible or substantiated allegation," said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, diocese spokesman.

"We are deeply concerned about victims, as was shown by Bishop Wuerl being one of the first bishops to visit victims and their families, and we have made every effort to assist victims with counseling."

Hoehl was one of the first priests Wuerl removed in late 1988 when, after meeting the victims in another case, he decided that no priest who had abused a minor should remain in ministry, Lengwin said.

Hoehl's accusers have been concerned because they believe he's a counselor for troubled teens in another state.

Diskin, who was serving as director of the diocesan Worship Office when he was accused in 2002, is still provided a residence on diocesan property unconnected to any parish, Lengwin said.


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