Altar Boy Comes Forward with Lawsuit Against Disgraced Ex-Priest
A former altar boy is the latest to come forward, filing a lawsuit claiming he was sexually abused by a former Pennsylvania priest. The priest already admitted to abusing another boy several years ago and was previously cleared to work with kids by a New Mexico clinic for troubled clergy.
Bruno Tucci, 76, allegedly abused the altar boy who is identified only as a 29-year-old “John Doe” for several years between 1999 and 2001 at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Nesquehoning, a small town outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Tucci allegedly told the boy to “put his arms out like Jesus on the cross” while he fondled him.
“He is a broken young man,” the client’s chief attorney, Gerald Williams, said. “He veers from anger to despair to depression.” He was motivated to come forward after Tucci was identified by a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August as one of 301 “predator priests” who preyed on thousands of children in parishes across six dioceses.
Unlike the vast majority of the other victims, Tucci’s accuser is not prevented from suing for damages by the state’s statute of limitations law, because the age cut off for filing civil claims is 30. “He is 29 and if he was a few years older we would not be filing this lawsuit,” Williams said of his client. “This abuser was abusing children before our client was even born.”
The ex-priest served in the Allentown Diocese from April 1971 through March 2002 and now lives in Maryland. Williams said wishes to use the lawsuit to identify other predator priests and convince victims to come forward. In addition to Tucci, the lawsuit targets former Allentown Diocese Bishop Edward Cullen and the current bishop of that diocese, Alfred Schlert, as well as the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete.
“It was known as ‘Camp Ped’ in Catholic circles back in 1990s,” Williams said. “It was started to help priests with drinking problems and did a good job of that. But it had no experience or ability to treat pedophilia.”
According to Williams, Roman Catholic dioceses across the nation sent priests accused of having “improper attraction to children.”
“In reality, the Jemez Springs facility was used routinely to ‘recycle’ unreformed pedophilic priests back into active ministry where they would have regular contact with children,” according to the lawsuit.
Tucci was sent there after a young man told the Allentown Diocese in 1991 that the priest molested him when he was 14.
“After Tucci admitted his guilt in 1991, the Diocese neither disciplined him nor advised parishioners of his misconduct nor warned parishioners of his perverse proclivities,” the lawsuit states. Instead, he was sent to New Mexico where he was “cleared” to return to the Pennsylvania parishes.
“In 1993, the victim who had complained in 1991 saw that Tucci had been returned to full priestly status and reiterated his complaint and his concerns for other potential victims to the Diocese. In response, the Diocese did nothing,” says the filing. So, six years later, Williams said, Tucci preyed on his client.
It wasn’t until 2002 that the diocese “removed Tucci from active ministry by permitting him to retire,” according to the lawsuit. In 2007, he was removed from the priesthood. In the meantime, a third victim came forward in May 2002 and told the Allentown Diocese that Tucci had molested him between 1977 and 1978 when he was a child.
“Since becoming Bishop on August 31, 2017, Bishop Alfred Schlert has acted immediately on any allegations, removing the priest from ministry and notifying law enforcement,” the Allentown Diocese said. “Abuse is abhorrent and has no place in the Church. Bishop Schlert has apologized to victims and has set a clear tone of zero tolerance, and of keeping children safe.”