Suits Charge Sex Abuse by Three Priests

By Ron Goldwyn
Philadelphia Daily News [Philadelphia PA]
March 16, 2004

Two more men have charged they were sexually abused as boys by Philadelphia Catholic priests decades ago in lawsuits filed yesterday.

Their suits depend on an argument their lawyer admits hasn't worked in any Pennsylvania court to get past the statute of limitations on such allegations, which has long since expired.

Nicholas Siravo, of Northeast Philadelphia, charges sexual abuse by the Revs. Charles J. Siegele and Harry J. Nawn while Sivaro attended Cardinal Dougherty High School 1960-1964.

According to his suit, Siravo said he was abused by Siegele at the school, took his complaint to Nawn, who then assaulted him at St. Peter's Church, in Fishtown.

Alfred Roberts, of North Philadelphia, charges he was sexually abused by the Rev. Joseph Gausch as an altar boy in St. Bridget's Church 1970 to 1972.

Roberts, as the only black altar boy at the East Falls parish during that time, also alleges ethnic intimidation. His suit claims Gausch told him to keep quiet about the assaults and that no one would believe him anyway because he was black.

All three priests named in the suits are dead.

Stewart J. Eisenberg of Philadelphia, lawyer for both plaintiffs, said the separate suits seek unspecified damages in excess of $50,000 against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the priests' estates and the churches and school where the alleged assaults occurred.

Six other men have filed suit against Siegele and three other former or deceased priests since December for alleged sexual abuse as boys. All are in the early stages of court activity, with no trial dates set.

The archdiocese had not had a chance to review the suits, spokeswoman Catherine L. Rossi said. She noted that the priests are dead "and the allegations are reported to have occurred over 30 years ago."

Rossi declined to say if the priests were among the 44 - most of them unnamed - that the archdiocese last month said had been credibly accused of sexually abusing youths since 1950.

Eisenberg said that despite the time that has elapsed, the archdiocese has made "a systematic attempt to conceal the abuse of these priests" from the time it occurred "even to today."

He said he believes abuse victims can claim "fraudulent concealment" to "defeat the statute of limitations."

No plaintiff has even won damages on such a claim in Philadelphia, he said, "but they have in other states."

These cases, he said, are just the beginning.

"We intend to file more. A lot of victims have come forward."


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