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PITTSBURGH DIOCESE 2 men sue, alleging abuse years ago

Friday, January 28, 2005

One man said the abuse occurred in Butler.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Two more men have sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, saying they were plied with alcohol and sexually abused by priests decades ago, and a Schuylkill County panel of judges dismissed two abuse lawsuits against the Allentown Diocese they said were filed too late.
The two men bring to 35 the number of people who have sued the Pittsburgh diocese in the past year claiming they were molested by 18 former priests. None of the cases has gone to trial.
A 53-year-old man from McKeesport claims in his lawsuit that he was fondled by a priest at St. Mary Czestochowa Church in McKeesport, a Pittsburgh suburb, when he was 11 years old. A 45-year-old man claims he was fondled and sodomized at the St. Paul Church in Butler by a former priest when he was 15 years old.
Lawyers representing the victims contend that the diocese protected and reassigned priests that were involved in abusing children.
The diocese has said that all the allegations in the lawsuits involve priests removed from the ministry or who have died.
Thrown-out cases
Meantime, a six-judge panel in Schuylkill County threw out a pair of priest abuse lawsuits, saying the alleged victims waited too long -- more than 20 years -- to file their claims. The judges, however, said the diocese was "shocking and irresponsible" in its failure to protect its young parishioners.
A lawyer for the two men, Jay N. Abramowitch, and his colleague, Richard Serbin, sued the Allentown Diocese, Bishop Edward P. Cullen, and retired Bishop Thomas J. Welsh because the two-year statute of limitations against individual priests had passed.
The Schuylkill suits name the Rev. Francis J. McNelis, who retired in 2002 and is living in Holy Family Villa in Bethlehem, and the late Monsignor William E. Jones, former pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Minersville.
The two lawsuits were filed in January 2004. The Schuylkill panel agreed with the diocese that the two-year deadline to file a civil lawsuit seeking money for injuries had elapsed.