Archdiocese Accused of Sex Abuse Cover-Up
Estates of Three Deceased Catholic Priests Are Also Named in Two Suits Alleging Molestation of Two Boys
By Jacqueline Soteropoulos
March 17, 2004
In a pair of lawsuits, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and three Catholic priests who have died have been accused of concealing the sexual abuse of two boys.
The abuse occurred between 1960 and 1964 at Cardinal Dougherty High School, and between 1970 and 1972 at St. Bridget's Church in the East Falls section of the city, according to suits filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court against the archdiocese and the priests' estates.
In a written statement, archdiocese spokeswoman Catherine L. Rossi said the archdiocese has not had an opportunity to review the litigation, but noted that "the three priests named in the lawsuits are deceased and the allegations are reported to have occurred over 30 years ago."
Nicholas Siravo of the Wissinoming section of the city says he was abused while a student at Cardinal Dougherty High School.
Siravo said that the Rev. Charles J. Siegele regularly removed him from classes for "discipline," but instead took him to an empty room and molested him. Siegele threatened to suspend the teen if he told anyone, Siravo says.
Siravo said that when he reported the incidents in 1962 to the Rev. Harry J. Nawn, Nawn began to molest him in the Old Rectory at St. Peter the Apostle Church.
In the second suit, Alfred Roberts of North Philadelphia says he was molested by the Rev. Joseph Gausch in the sacristy and rectory while serving as an altar boy at St. Bridget's.
In addition, Roberts, who is African American, says Gausch used ethnic intimidation and racial epithets to silence him. Roberts said he was in the seventh and eighth grades at that time.
Gausch was named in another sex-abuse lawsuit filed last month.
Siravo and Roberts' lawyer, Stewart J. Eisenberg, said that for years, both of his clients had difficulty acknowledging that the abuse occurred.
"I think this is just one more example of victims coming forward and wanting the church and the archdiocese to deal with the problem," Eisenberg said.
In December, Eisenberg filed a similar lawsuit in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court against the church on behalf of Rocco "Rocky" Parisi Jr.
Parisi of South Philadelphia says that the Rev. Joseph P. Gallagher repeatedly plied him with alcohol and marijuana in the mid-1970s, when Gallagher was a parish priest at St. Monica Roman Catholic Church in South Philadelphia. Parisi said that when he was half-conscious, the priest would grope and perform sex acts on him.
Eisenberg said that in court filings, the archdiocese has denied Parisi's allegations and is trying to dismiss the lawsuit based on an expired statute of limitations.
To overcome Pennsylvania statute-of-limitations issues, Eisenberg has included allegations of civil conspiracy, racketeering and negligence in each of these lawsuits.
A Philadelphia grand jury is also conducting a secret investigation of abuse by priests.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.