Class-action suit seeks apology from Pennsylvania dioceses

Pennsylvania capitol CNA Credit Goya Bauwens via Flickr CC BY NC 20 CNA The Pennsylvania capitol building in Harrisburg. | Goya Bauwens via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

A class-action lawsuit against all eight Latin-rite Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania is seeking an admission from the Church that it covered up years of child sexual abuse, and the release of any Church records of abuse.

One of the plaintiffs, Ryan O'Connor, is an abuse victim and a current member of the Catholic Church whose children attend Catholic school. The other plaintiff, W.H., is a minor who is being represented by his mother.

The lawsuit accuses the dioceses of "public nuisance" and of failing to adhere to Pennsylvania's mandatory reporting requirements, claiming that the knowledge of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania was widespread and that the Church failed to "control, supervise, and report sexual abuse."

The information that the plaintiffs want the dioceses to hand over would plug gaps in the Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report that named over 300 priests accused of sexually abusing over 1,000 children since the 1940s. Some of the names of clerics in the report were redacted.

Rather than seeking damages, the plaintiffs seek "injunctive relief," which would include an admission that the dioceses are causing a public nuisance as laid out in the lawsuit, and a court order declaring the Church's alleged actions unlawful.

The plaintiffs also want to see the release of all the dioceses' records pertaining to sexual abuse dating back to 1948. Alternatively, they seek a court order compelling the defendants to meet their mandatory reporting obligations as set by the state.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh told CNA that it requires all clergy, employees and volunteers to undergo criminal background checks and participate in child protection training, and that "all allegations of the sexual abuse of minors are reported to law enforcement."

"The Diocese of Pittsburgh has not yet been served with any papers regarding this lawsuit," said Fr Nicholas Vaskov, director of communications for the diocese.

This story has been updated.

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