Catholic Dioceses are Subject of Abuse Allegations, Lawsuit Filed
A lawsuit has been filed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on behalf of parents of children in the Roman Catholic Church and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. It was filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses and their bishops urging the court to release information thus far kept from the public regarding sexual abuse allegations.
The lawsuit comes after a Pennsylvania grand jury report of abuse allegations against more than 300 priests spanning many years across six dioceses. The report added that more than 1,000 children were allegedly molested and that the “real number” of abused children might be “in the thousands”. The Pennsylvania dioceses in question have yet to meet mandatory reporting obligations regarding child sexual abusers.
Benjamin Sweet, an attorney for the lead plaintiffs said they are not seeking a monetary reward but are asking for public transparency about abuse allegations. The suit asks for injunctive relief to compel the Pennsylvania dioceses to be better mandated reporters. Since the lawsuit won’t seek damages and doesn’t represent only the victims of abuse, Sweet said it can’t be held back by any statute of limitations. Many witnesses plan to come forward with their testimonies.
“From our perspective, this is completely about disclosure and coming clean and allowing these predator priests to be named. The concealment of these priests is a continuing slap in the face to these survivors. It’s a continuing slap in the face to the parents who trust these churches and institutions to educate these children,” Sweet said.
The lawsuit seeks to compel the dioceses to release all information they had given to the grand jury to the public and to provide a means for reporters to review records to ensure their existence and accuracy before sending them to law enforcement or government officials.
Spokespersons for the Greensburg, Pittsburgh, and Allentown dioceses indicated all allegations of abuse of minors are reported to law enforcement.
“At the Diocese of Greensburg, any and every allegation, regardless of credibility, is immediately called into Pennsylvania ChildLine and reported to the appropriate district attorney, whether the allegation is minutes old or 70 years old,” Greensburg Dioceses spokesperson Jerry Zufelt said.
However, according to the filing, only ten of the 300 priests named in the grand jury report are registered sex offenders. This has led the parties to believe the church has not been as transparent as it contends it has.
Ryan O’Connor, one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, is a survivor of sexual abuse. His children attend Catholic school, but O’Connor said he still doesn’t trust all of the priests.
“This is not about money or seeking damages. This is about transparency; this is about honesty. This is about letting parents know that we are going to take care of this. This is about the church saying we are going to get rid of these bad operators and we are going to no longer protect them,” O’Connor said. “This is about protecting my kids, their classmates and every child who steps foot into a Catholic school or into mass as an altar server.”