Woman files lawsuit against Allentown Diocese in connection with clergy abuse

The Mercury
December 3, 2019

The clock struck midnight, and thanks to a new law, a slew of lawsuits against the Catholic Church have popped up in New Jersey.

That includes a case targeting the Allentown Diocese. A woman says she was repeatedly abused by a priest for more than a decade.

According to the lawsuit, sexual abuse against a 13-year-old girl by later-defrocked priest Joseph Rock started in 1974. It allegedly continued for 11 years.

Rock allegedly took photos and videos and threatened to share them if she ever told anyone.

According to the lawsuit filed in New Jersey Superior Court, priest Joseph Rock offered to babysit a family friend's 13-year-old girl, starting more than a decade of abuse.

The suit says the girl was abused in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

It was filed Monday, the day after a new law in New Jersey opened up a two-year window for victims previously blocked by the statute of limitations.

The lawsuit does not go after Rock. It targets the Allentown Diocese.

"To find out more about what they knew, when they knew it, what they were doing to facilitate the abuse and protect Rock," Stewart Ryan, the woman's attorney, said.

For nearly three decades Rock served in Berks County and the Lehigh Valley, including St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown, Saints Simon and Jude in Bethlehem, and the Catholic Youth Organization in Berks.

Rock was named in a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing more than 300 predator priests. He was on the Allentown Diocese's list of "priests credibly accused of abuse against minors."

In a statement the diocese says in part:

"His file was among those turned over to the District Attorney in 2002, when the Diocese of Allentown became the first diocese in Pennsylvania to report all known perpetrators to law enforcement."

The diocese says it will "review the lawsuit when we receive it."

The woman's attorney says she's hoping to gather more information through the civil suit.


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