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Diocese Facing 2 More Lawsuits

May 12, 2004 | The Morning Call

Two more lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Diocese of Allentown were filed Tuesday, too late for inclusion in today's Lehigh County Court hearing to consider the church's request to dismiss six other cases involving similar claims.

The new suits involve additional claims of molestation against the Rev. Gabriel Patil, a member of the Barnabite religious order, who is now pastor at St. James Church in Ontario, Canada, and the Rev. Richard Guiliani, who was principal of Cardinal Brennan High School in Schuylkill County when the alleged abuse occurred in 1976.

Today's hearing, to decide whether the six sexual abuse cases against the Diocese of Allentown, Bishop Edward P. Cullen and retired Bishop Thomas J. Welsh can go forward, is being held before a panel of judges instead of just one.

Such a hearing is unusual, but in this case it's practical. Although the cases were filed separately and assigned to different Lehigh judges, the issue of whether the statute of limitations has expired is the same in each.

In its petition for dismissal, the diocese is arguing the two-year deadline to file a civil case seeking money for alleged injuries has elapsed, considering the alleged abuses took place between 1965 and 1982.

The diocese is also asking Schuylkill County Court to dismiss two cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests on similar grounds, but a hearing date hasn't been set.

In one of the lawsuits filed in Schuylkill County, Pottsville businessman Scott Greis alleges he was molested between 1978 and 1980 by Monsignor William E. Jones, then pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church, Minersville.

On Monday, Jones died in Lehigh Valley Hospital, Salisbury Township. He was 70.

ccording to the complaint, Wychulis, who was 16 at the time, said she was doing her homework in the school gymnasium when Guiliani asked her to accompany him to the store to buy Christmas gifts for his nieces and nephews. On the ride home, Guiliani asked her to retrieve something from the back of the car. As she was bending over the seat, he reached beneath her skirt and fondled her, the suit says.

In an earlier suit filed against Guiliani in Lehigh County, Patricia Beaumont, 46, of Lancaster County charged Guiliani molested her while she was a student and he a teacher at Notre Dame High School in Bethlehem Township.

The sexual abuse began in 1971 and culminated four years later when Guiliani visited her at college and proposed sexual intercourse and marriage, according to the suit.

The other new Lehigh County suit names Patil. It involves an unidentified accuser who said he was 9 in 1978 when Patil began molesting him, and the abuse continued for two years. The allegations mirror those made in a previous Lehigh suit filed by two unidentified men who say they were 6 and 7 when Patil began molesting them.

Patil, who was serving at Bethlehem Catholic High School at the time, would invite the boys to his home ''under the guise of playing hide-and-seek,'' and then molest them, the suits say.

In response to the new suits, the Allentown Diocese issued a written statement saying the most recent allegation is 20 years old. Furthermore, investigations conducted two years ago by district attorneys from the five counties in the diocese concluded that at no time did the diocese discourage victims from contacting police, intimidate them or violate a law.

The diocese's intent to defend itself in court shouldn't detract from its commitment to ''prevent the abuse of children and youth and to respond quickly to meet the pastoral needs of those who have been abused in the past,'' the statement said.

That can't be accomplished if the truth isn't disclosed, officials of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests wrote in a letter Monday to Cullen.

SNAP National Director David Clohessy and David Cerulli, director of the New York City SNAP chapter, who said he was abused as an altar boy in Allentown, appealed to Cullen to allow the sexual abuse suits to proceed.

''We strongly urge you not to use any conceivable legal maneuver to avoid consequences for abuse by priests in the Allentown Diocese and the subsequent cover-up of these crimes,'' the men wrote. ''Help victims heal and promote the protection of children by insuring that all the facts of this terrible tragedy are known and those responsible held accountable.''

Besides Schuylkill and Lehigh, the diocese covers Berks, Northampton and Carbon counties.


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