Pa. Diocese Seeks to Block Suit by Teenage Girl's Parents

Philadelphia Inquirer
September 26, 2010

READING - An eastern Pennsylvania diocese wants a judge to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of failing to protect a teenager allegedly impregnated by a priest who was a chaplain at her high school.

Last month, the girl's parents filed the lawsuit claiming the Rev. Luis A. Bonilla Margarito carried on a sexual relationship with the girl while he was the chaplain of Reading Central Catholic High School and she was a senior there.

The relationship became public after the parents captured the couple on a video camera secretly set up in the parents' basement.

The Reading Eagle reports the Diocese of Allentown is asking a judge to dismiss the suit, which seeks more than $300,000. A hearing on the matter has not been set.

Bonilla and the teen are now reportedly living together in Norristown.

The diocese's lawyer, Joseph Leeson Jr., said the baby was conceived in October or November 2009, at least seven months after the girl's 18th birthday.

"The mother and stepfather without the cooperation of their adult daughter have asserted multiple causes of action against the defendants," Leeson said, adding that the parents have no standing to pursue the lawsuit.

Jay N. Abramowitch, a lawyer for the parents, said the diocese has filed legal objections in all abuse cases. The parents are seeking more than $300,000, citing emotional distress and negligence.

The girl became acquainted with Bonilla during the 2008-09 school year, and her parents became aware the two were spending too much time together, the lawsuit alleges.

The parents hid the camera in their basement in November 2009, recorded the couple having sex, and told the diocese, the lawsuit said. Bonilla was then removed from his assignments and placed in treatment.

The diocese has since taken steps toward having the priest defrocked.

Berks County prosecutors have said they weren't pursuing charges because a police investigation determined that the relationship started when the girl was 18.

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