Man Sues Greensburg Diocese over Alleged Abuse 40 Years Ago

The Associated Press, carried in Times-Leader [Greensburg PA]
August 17, 2005

GREENSBURG, Pa. - A man has accused a priest who died more than a decade ago of sexually abusing him, according to a lawsuit filed against a diocese and a retired bishop.

The 52-year-old man, whose name wasn't revealed in the lawsuit filed in Westmoreland County court, accused the late Rev. Francis Lesniak of abusing him in the mid-1960s, when the man was a 12- or 13-year-old boy.

According to the lawsuit, the abuse happened when Lesniak worked at the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg's St. Stanislaus Church in Calmut and the boy was a parishioner.

The boy was invited to stay overnight at the rectory, and Lesniak allegedly fondled him while he slept, the lawsuit said. When the boy woke up he was allegedly forced to fondle Lesniak in return, according to the lawsuit.

Lesniak died in February 1991.

The lawsuit, filed last week by Altoona attorney Richard M. Serbin, alleged the diocese knew of such abuse and should have stopped it from happening. It named the diocese and retired Bishop Anthony Bosco as defendants.

Bosco led the diocese from 1987 until he retired last year. He replaced the late Bishop William G. Connare, who led the diocese when the alleged abuse happened.

The diocese turned the lawsuit over to Pittsburgh attorney Carl Eck, diocese spokesman Jerry Zufelt said. Eck declined comment Wednesday, except to say he would defend the diocese and the bishop.

"We will cooperate with the civil authorities in this case and others that come before the court," Zufelt said. "We have a policy of openness and transparency."

Serbin also filed a lawsuit against the diocese in March on behalf of Terrance J. Zawacki, who accused Lesniak of sexually abusing him more than four decades ago when Zawacki was about 11 years old.