Class-action lawsuit filed in Pittsburgh seeks names of all clergy accused of sexual abuse

By Amanda Klein  | September 17, 2018

A class action lawsuit was filed Monday against the Diocese of Pittsburgh and seven other Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania, seeking the names of all priests accused of child abuse since 1948.

The complaint also alleges church officials, “systemically failed to meet their reporting obligations.”  The defendants are Altoona-Johnstown, Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as well as their bishops.

In addition to the names of priests, the lawsuit is seeking the release of all church records connected with abuse cases.

The suit is brought by Penn Hills resident Ryan O’Connor, who alleges in the filing that he was sexually abused as a child by a priest, and Kristen Hancock, of Mt. Lebanon, who has a child enrolled in a Catholic school.

Mr. O’Connor alleges he was abused by a Johnstown priest when he was 9 or 10 years old. He said he has two children currently enrolled in Catholic schools and is concerned that priests who have been accused of abuse, whose names have not been disclosed, are still permitted access to children.

“I try to raise my children that way. I don’t want them or any other children to have a head full of memories that I did not ask for,” he said.

“It’s a shame that public safety and common sense does not prevail,” Ms. Hancock said. “It’s a shame that the Catholic Church is still driving which information becomes public. And it’s a shame that it takes a lawsuit to seek to release these names to protect our children,” she added.

The complaint alleges that the defendants concealed the names of clergy who were accused of abuse and continue to do so.  “Of the 301 priests identified in the [grand jury report], 10 or less appear in the Pennsylvania Megan’s Law Database.”

A spokesman for the Pittsburgh Diocese responded by saying, “The Diocese of Pittsburgh requires all clergy, employees and volunteers to undergo criminal background checks and participate in child protection training, which has been done for more than 70,000 people who serve in its churches, schools and institutions.”

A Diocese of Greensburg spokesman said, “At the Diocese of Greensburg, any and every allegation, regardless of credibility, is immediately called in to Pa. ChildLine and reported to the appropriate district attorney, whether the allegation is minutes old or 70 years old.”

According to the filing and a statement from Benjamin Sweet, the attorney who filed the case, no money is being sought, just church records and the names of clergy members.

As of Monday none of the defendants named in the lawsuit have been officially served with the complaint.

Amanda Klein can be contacted at amanda.klein@grantstreetnews.com

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