Two More Accuse Priests of Molestation
9 recent complaints filed in Altoona-JohnstownApr 4, 2003 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Two more former altar boys have gone to civil court, accusing another pair of priests of molestation offering one set of charges fresh enough that prosecutors are considering if it warrants criminal charges.
One lawsuit says the molester was a parish priest in Hollidaysburg, Blair County. The other names a priest in rural southeast Cambria County.
With those suits, nine plaintiffs now have gone to Blair County Common Pleas Court in the past two months, leveling complaints against six priests from the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The suits, though, target only the diocese, its current and previous bishops, charging that they engineered years of coverups to keep reprobate priests from being found out and to stymie would-be lawsuits.
"I continue to receive calls and letters on a regular basis," Altoona attorney Richard Serbin, author of all the suits, said of chances that more complaints will follow.
The suits brought the first accusation that, although its 13 years old, is current enough for prosecutors to pursue.
A change in state criminal law last year expanded the five-year statute of limitations on molestation cases to 12 years, then declared that the legal clock didn't start running until victims hit age 18.
In this case, the plaintiff is a 25-year-old who says he was a parishioner at St. Mary Church in Hollidaysburg when Monsignor Thomas Mabon, now ailing and retired, drew him into at least three years of abuse that included open-mouth kissing and oral sex.
"God wanted him to do it," the lawsuit says Mabon assured the teenage altar boy.
"We're aware of the charges and are pursuing an investigation," David Gorman, Blair County district attorney, said yesterday. But it's too early, Gorman said, to predict whether criminal charges will follow.
That lawsuit also crosses a line of sorts that Bishop Joseph Adamec drew previously when he said that all abuse claims he was aware of dated back before 1987, when he became bishop.
The lawsuit citing Mabon tells of abuse that ran from 1988 to 1990.
The plaintiff, now living in Philadelphia, said yesterday that he never alerted diocesan officials. But Serbin told a press conference yesterday that he expects to show that diocesan officials knew or should have known that Mabon was a threat to children.
The diocese issued a statement yesterday, calling it "impossible and inappropriate" to react to the newly filed lawsuits until diocesan officials review them.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not name the plaintiffs under its policy against identifying possible victims of sexual abuse.
The second priest accused in the lawsuits is the Rev. John Boyle, described by a diocesan spokeswoman only as "inactive" now.
The plaintiff, now 44, was once part of Boyle's parish in Dunlo, Cambria County. Then, according to the lawsuit, the youngster visited Boyle when the cleric was reassigned to St. Agnes Church in nearby Beaverdale.
There, between 1973 and 1975, Boyle began a string of abuse that began when he got his teenage visitor to drink into unconsciousness at the parish rectory, then sodomized him, the lawsuit says.
He told nobody, the plaintiff said during Serbin's press conference.
"I would have been tortured in high school," he said. "I would have been totally humiliated."