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2 More Men File Sex Abuse Lawsuit Against Altoona-Johnstown Diocese

Aug 13, 2003 | AP

Two men sued the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic diocese alleging that they were sexually abused by priests years ago and that church officials knew about abuse allegations but did too little to curb abuse.

While the previous six suits, involving nine alleged victims, claim abuse occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, the suits by John T. Arndt, 49, and David T. Saveleski, 53, detail abuse claims dating to the late 1950s.

Arndt, of Elmira, N.Y., and Saveleski, of Annapolis, Md., contacted Serbin after he began filing suits earlier this year.

Sister Mary Parks, a diocesan spokeswoman, declined comment, saying the diocese hadn't seen the lawsuits.

The lawsuits continue a series of legal challenges this year against the diocese, which is located about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh. Together, the lawsuits represent the first such actions faced by the diocese since a 1987 case against a now-defrocked priest that resulted in a $1.2 million award.

Like the previous lawsuits, the latest lawsuits do not name the priests as defendants because the statute of limitations has expired. They instead name the diocese, current Bishop Joseph Adamec and his predecessor, Bishop James Hogan.

In his lawsuit, Arndt, claims he was molested by Joseph Bender beginning in 1963 when he was about 10 years old and lasting until 1965. He claims the abuse occurred most often at a camp Bender had in Hyner Mountain, where he would often members of St. Joe's Little Choir, to which Arndt belonged.

Bender died in August 2000, according to the diocese.

Saveleski claims he was molested by John Boyle for about two years beginning in 1958 when he was about 10 or 11 years old.

Boyle, who was also identified as an alleged abuser in a previous suit, is listed as retired on the diocese's Web site with a post office box in Mill Hall. A number for a John Boyle in the surrounding area was unlisted.

Adamec, who was out of the country yesterday, has previously defended the diocese, saying he and Hogan did what was proper under laws and church guidelines in effect when the allegations surfaced.

In a statement earlier this year, Adamec detailed how the diocese handled allegations against 13 priests named in recent lawsuits and news reports. Of those 13, one the Rev. Francis Luddy, who was the subject of the 1987 lawsuit was defrocked.

Adamec said he removed two priests who had previously been suspended. In other cases, priests were cleared and others ordered to go to treatment. One remains on administrative leave pending a church investigation.

Adamec also noted that the church paid for therapy for four men who said they had been abused by priests.

In court documents, the diocese has attacked the lawsuits, saying they violate the constitutional separation of church and state and try to skirt the 2-year statute of limitations by alleging "clergy malpractice" and questioning how the diocese disciplined priests.

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