Clergy Abuse Survivor Wins in Court -- Again

By Matt C. Abbott Ma
Renew America

August 26, 2008

From an Aug. 21, 2008 SNAP news release:

'A California appeals court has upheld a lower court's finding that a Catholic priest molested a boy and his church colleagues and bosses were responsible for the crimes.

'Joey Piscitelli charged, in a civil case, that he was molested by a Salesian cleric in the Bay Area and that the priest's supervisors could and should have prevented the abuse. He was awarded a six figure verdict. The Salesians appealed the case, claiming there wasn't a fair trial.'

The appellate court's decision can be read by clicking this link (PDF format).

In addition, Mr. Piscitelli provided me with the following statement (edited):

'The vindictive, hateful battle of five years brought by the Salesians has culminated in an appellate court decision in my favor, but the Salesians still will not apologize, and never will. I was continuously molested by a Salesian priest when I was a child and was forced to keep quiet. The abuse started when Father Whelan masturbated in front of me, while his friend, convicted molester Brother Sal Billante, witnessed the incident and did not report it. The abused then escalated into sexual physical abuse and attacks in the school that lasted two years.

'I filed suit in California in 2003, and the Salesian order responded by calling me a liar and vowed to make an example out of me. I became a SNAP leader, and held many events and protests for dozens of victims all over Northern California.

'The Salesians hired several law firms and promised to destroy me in superior court. They deposed my wife, brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, aunts, uncles, cousins, old classmates, fellow workers, and my ailing father. They hired public spokespersons and made public statements calling me a liar and a sick, disturbed man....

'The Salesians mocked me by saying they would not even settle for one dime. Their army of attorneys spent an estimated several million dollars to fight their court battle, promising victory at many church events and press conferences.

'Some say the Salesians escalated their monetary ammunition because I was a voice for victims in SNAP; others say Cardinal Levada chipped in millions for their fight because I was a thorn in his side. Maybe both; I'll never know.

'I went to a jury trial in July 2006. The Salesians viciously thrashed my therapist, my wife, my deceased mother, my friends, my children, my ailing father, and me. After a two week trial, the jury deliberated. While the jury was deliberating, we went to a coffee shop across the street from the court. Two of the Salesian attorneys were there, saw me and laughed out loud, gave each other a high-five, then laughed again. Other attorneys were seen hugging each other, laughing loudly, congratulating each other, and shaking hands in the court lobby before the verdict was read.

'The jury then read the verdict, and I won.

'After the verdict was read, while still in the courtroom, a Salesian attorney said to a Salesian priest, 'Piscitelli's a [expletive].' The priest responded, 'He sure the [expletive] is.'

'The Salesians filed an appeal in Superior Court and lost. They subsequently filed an appeal with the Appellate Court. Cardinal Levada and Bishop Niederhauer staunchly supported the Salesians, who are nested in the Archdiocese of San Francisco's backyard. The Salesians promised churchgoers and the archdiocese that they would prevail at the Appellate Court, and they continued to thrash my family and me publicly for another two years.

'One Salesian priest proclaimed at an event, 'We will win at the Appellate Court because God is on our side.'

'My question is: What God would that be?

'It took two years to reach the Appellate Court hearing. The Salesians hired even more lawyers, and an army of Salesian lawyers filled the benches at the Appellate Court hearing two months ago. They dominated the Appellate Court hearing, and the judges said the decision would take two months.

'The Appellate Court ruled unanimously against the Salesians. Perhaps my deceased mother in Heaven heard the horrible thrashing the Salesians gave her in court, or maybe God had enough of their vindictive behavior, or perhaps it was both. In any case, justice has finally been served.'

Incidentally, in 2006, a spokesman for the San Francisco archdiocese e-mailed me and referred to me as a "fool" for a column about said case.

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Business Management from Triton College in River Grove, Ill. He has worked in the right-to-life movement and is a published writer focused on Catholic and social issues. He can be reached at


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