Two Priests Dropped from Woman's Abuse Lawsuit

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 18, 2004

Two Benedictine priests were removed from a woman's sexual abuse lawsuit because they would not be responsible for her alleged health problems even if they had abused her son, a judge ruled.

Westmoreland County Judge Gary Caruso last week ruled that the Revs. Andrew Campbell and Athanasius Cherry should be removed from a Port Matilda woman's lawsuit, which claims her son was plied with drugs and alcohol and abused by priests while a teenager.

Campbell is the head of the English department at St. Vincent University, which is run by the Saint Vincent Archabbey, the oldest Benedictine monastery in the United States. Cherry is the pastor of the St. Vincent Basilica.

In her lawsuit, filed last year, the woman claims her son told her in July 2002 that he was sexually abused by Campbell, Cherry and another priest while he was an altar boy in 1980 and 1981. She claims that learning of the abuse has caused mental anguish, humiliation, nightmares and increased risk of a heart attack, among other conditions.

Her son filed a separate lawsuit in February.

The judge threw out the claims against the two priests, ruling they weren't directly responsible for the woman's alleged health problems.

"Absent are any allegations that Father Cherry and Father Campbell directed any extreme or outrageous conduct towards" her, Caruso wrote on May 11.

The woman's attorney, Helen Kotler, noted the judge left Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, its current and former bishops, the St. Vincent Archabbey and another priest as defendants.

In February, the judge turned away arguments by the diocese and the archabbey that her lawsuit should be dismissed because it wasn't filed within the statute of limitations for sexual abuse. Caruso ruled the lawsuit could continue because the woman learned only two years ago of her son's claims.

Bruce Antkowiak, the attorney for the two priests, did not return a phone call for comment left after business hours on Monday. Eric Anderson, the attorney for the diocese and archabbey, said he was considering an appeal to the state Superior Court.


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