Civil lawsuit is filed against Allentown priest named in grand jury report

Steve Tawa
November 12, 2018 - 3:26 pm
Attorney Gerald Williams left), of the law firm Williams Cedar, is accompanied by associates during a press conference of a civil lawsuit involving a former priest from the Diocese of Allentown.

Steve Tawa/KYW Newsradio

Categories: 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia law firm representing a "John Doe" has filed a civil lawsuit against a Catholic priest, and others, named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August. 

Attorney Gerald Williams, of the law firm Williams Cedar, names the Diocese of Allentown, its current and immediate past bishops, and a former priest.

RELATED: Feds open clergy abuse probe in Pennsylvania

The lawsuit alleges that now-retired priest Bruno Tucci abused his client — a now 29-year-old man — when he was 10 to 12 years old, between 1999 and 2001. 

Williams said the Diocese of Allentown failed to properly investigate his complaints — even after Tucci admitted to his superiors that he improperly touched another boy 10 years earlier in 1991.

"The diocese did worse than nothing in that case," said Williams.

Tucci was sent to a so-called "treatment center," which had no expertise in dealing with pedophiles, and months later, he was returned to the active ministry and the same local parish.

"It's doubtless that he molested other children," continued Williams. "So far as we know, one of his last victims was our client."

Williams said the revelations were contained in the grand jury report, and much of the information, including Tucci's admission, was concealed in the church's "secret archives" and not revealed until compelled by subpoena.

RELATED: Archdiocese of Philadelphia sets up fund for victims of clergy sex abuse

Tucci was one of 300 priests identified in the grand jury report, who allegedly sexually abused more than 1,000 children over a 70-year period. Tucci retired in 2002 and was defrocked in 2007.

The Diocese of Allentown, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and several more in the commonwealth, including dioceses in Pittsburgh, Scranton, Greensburg and Harrisburg, announced last week that they will set up compensation funds for survivors of priest sex abuse. But, if an alleged victim were to opt into that compensation fund, Williams pointed out that they would not be able to pursue claims in court, where payouts typically are much higher than in compensation funds.

"These funds tend to operate as furtherances as keeping things in the dark. The church wants to set its own parameters for what its liability is, and we think that's wrong," he added.

Advocates want the Pennsylvania state legislature to create a retroactive, two-year window for survivors timed out of filing civil lawsuits against their abusers. The state House passed the measure, but it was blocked in the Senate.

The Diocese of Allentown said in a statement that its current bishop, installed in 2017, "has acted immediately on any allegations, removing the priest from ministry, and notifying law enforcement." 

The diocese added that Bishop Alfred Schlert has "apologized to victims and has set a clear tone of zero tolerance, and of keeping children safe."