Diocese, Bishop Named in Suit

By Anne Danahy
Centre Daily Times (State College, PA)
August 13, 2003

Two men filed complaints in Blair County Court on Tuesday saying they had been sexually abused decades ago by priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown

The complaints, filed by John T. Arndt and David T. Saveleski against the diocese, Bishop Joseph V. Adamec and former Bishop James Hogan, accuse the church of knowingly hiding priests who presented a threat to children. In his civil suit, Arndt accuses Father Joseph Bender of sexually abusing him for about two years starting in 1963. Arndt was 9 or 10 years old at the time and a parishioner at St. Joseph's Church in Renovo, where Bender was pastor.

Bender, who died in 2000, left the ministry in 1992. He never served in Centre County.

Saveleski, of Annapolis, Md., says in his complaint that he was 10 or 11 years old and a parishioner at St. Patrick's Church in Johnstown when he was first sexually abused by Father John Boyle.

By Anne Danahy

Boyle is retired and never was assigned to a Centre County parish, according to the diocese.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Adamec said the diocese does not try to conceal abuse by priests. "The legal action alleges that some sort of conspiracy exists within this diocesan church that allows and even promotes inappropriate behavior on the part of its priests in regard to minors. I deny and know of no such conspiracy, certainly not within the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown," Adamec said.

According to the complaint, Saveleski, now 56, was an altar boy and student at St. Patrick's. The abuse, he claims, took place from about 1958 to 1960 at venues including Boyle's bedroom at the rectory, in the church and in Boyle's car.

Boyle previously was named in a lawsuit that accused him of molesting Robert A. Paulson from 1973 to 1975 starting when Paulson was a 14-year-old altar boy at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Beaverdale, southeastern Cambria County.

Both Arndt's and Saveleski's complaints allege abuse that involved kissing, fondling, masturbation and oral sex.

Arndt, now 49 years old and a resident of Elmira, N.Y., was a student at St. Joseph's school and a member of Bender's boy's choir, "St. Joe's Little Singers," according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Richard M. Serbin, of Altoona, said the accused priests are not defendants in the complaints because of the statute of limitations. He said the statute does not apply to the church, because church officials' actions have continued.

Serbin has so far filed eight such lawsuits against the diocese involving 11 people.

"The policy within this diocese is to keep these predators quiet and any abuse that they committed secret for the protection of the church," Serbin said.

Adamec's statement Tuesday defended the handling of alleged cases of abuse by the diocese, himself and Hogan.

"I believe that each one of us did, given the facts and circumstances, properly handle such cases," Adamec said

The eight-county diocese has about 113,000 parishioners, including 14,000 in Centre County.


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