Two men filed lawsuits Thursday alleging that they were sexually abused by priests years ago, including the first allegation of an incident during the tenure of the current bishop of the western Pennsylvania Roman Catholic diocese.
Darrin Mangiacarne and Robert A. Paulson Jr. joined seven other men who have sued the Altoona-Johnstown diocese this year, alleging that they were molested by current or former priests in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mangiacarne is the first person to come forward alleging he was abused during current Bishop Joseph Adamec’s 15-year tenure.
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 four other lawsuits filed this year, the latest lawsuits do not name the priests because the statute of limitations has expired. They instead name the diocese, Adamec and his predecessor, Bishop James Hogan, alleging that church officials knew about abuse allegations against priests but did too little to prevent future abuse.
In his lawsuit, Mangiacarne, 25, of Philadelphia, alleges he was molested by Monsignor Thomas Mabon while an altar boy at St. Mary’s Church in Hollidaysburg from 1988 to 1990. Mangiacarne said the abuse took place in the priest’s changing room and sacristy, where holy objects are kept, and Mabon told him that the abuse “would serve as penance for his confession,” the lawsuit said.
Paulson, 44, of Dover, alleged that he was molested by the Rev. John Boyle at St. Agnes’ Church in Beaverdale between 1973 and 1975.
Richard Serbin, who is representing both men and seven others who have sued the church, said authorities in Hollidaysburg were told about Mangiacarne’s allegations Wednesday. Hollidaysburg police officials did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Thursday afternoon.
Sister Mary Parks, a diocesan spokeswoman, declined comment, saying the diocese had just learned of the allegations and hadn’t seen the lawsuits.
Reached at his home in Johnstown, Mabon denied the allegations. Mabon, 76, said he had retired two years ago after serving as pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Johnstown. Boyle is listed as retired on the diocese’s Web site with a post office box in Mill Hall, Pa.; a number for a John Boyle in Mill Hall rang unanswered Thursday.
The lawsuits allege that the church knew of 11 other priests accused of sexual misconduct with children but covered up the cases.
“If you have a policy or practice of covering up pedophiliac activities, then no one’s looking to evaluate this information that comes forward,” Serbin said. “It gives everybody that is involved in this type of illegal and immoral activity a free ticket.”
Adamec has 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 last month, 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 in February 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” questioning how the diocese disciplined priests.
Citing cases from Wisconsin and Maine, the diocese’s attorneys argue that courts cannot second-guess how bishops hire, fire, assign or discipline priests. A 1995 Wisconsin ruling was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.