Plaintiff Says Priest's Voice Tells Him to Kill Himself

By Tom Gibb
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania)
February 17, 1994

It began, the plaintiff said, when he was 10 or 11 and his parish priest paused during a car ride to fondle him and perform oral sex on him.

Later, he recounted, there would be sex every few days at the St. Therese Catholic Church rectory in Altoona where the priest lived.

The molestations lasted six years, the plaintiff said. But he said he emerged from the experience as emotional wreckage — a confused bisexual and survivor of two suicide attempts who hallucinates and hears the voice of his former parish priest.

"His voice tells me to kill myself or he's going to kill me," he said.

Yesterday, the 26-year-old plaintiff, a former Altoona resident who now lives in Akron, Ohio, took the witness stand for the first time to tell a Blair County Common Pleas Court jury of the alleged molestation that led him to sue the Rev. Francis Luddy, 51, and the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese.

The jury heard allusions to the claims in the previous seven days of testimony. But the plaintiff began filling in details yesterday, stating that Luddy routinely called him into the rectory for sex while showering him with gifts that included candy, a pair of hamsters and a BB gun.

"He told me never to tell anybody about this," the plaintiff testified. The plaintiff said he complied because "I didn't want people to think I was gay."

The plaintiff's testimony was in marked contrast to the testimony Monday and Tuesday of his half brother, who articulately discussed some of what he estimated were at least 300 sexual episodes he had with Luddy.

By contrast, the plaintiff spoke slowly and quietly, his dark eyes fixed on his questioner. "Sometimes, I feel dazed out," he said, from the combination of the anti-psychosis drug Thorazine and the tranquilizer Xanax that he takes.

During 45 minutes of cross-examination, Luddy's attorney quickly zeroed in on the plaintiff's criminal record. Summit County, Ohio, parole officer Lee Adams said in a phone interview yesterday that the rap sheet included a variety of criminal offenses, most recently a felonious assault charge filed while the plaintiff was on parole on a breaking-and-entering charge.

But defense attorney Edward Glass of Johnstown spent most of his time questioning the plaintiff about his last alleged encounters with Luddy, in 1982 and 1984.

In both cases, the plaintiff said, he ran away from Akron to the same Altoona motel, took a shower, watched television and then waited outside for Luddy to make the 50-mile trip from the Windber, Somerset County, parish where he had been assigned.

Both times, he said, Luddy counseled him for at least a half hour, had sex with him, handed him $ 200 and departed.

During both stays, Glass said, the plaintiff testified that he had tried to call friends in Altoona but failed to make contact.

"I'm struck by the incredible similarity," Glass said.

Later, the plaintiff would answer, "There was a lot of things the same, sir."


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