Lawsuits filed against two Catholic Dioceses for allegations of child sex abuse

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HARRISBURG, Pa. --- Two lawsuits filed Tuesday take aim at allegations of child sex abuse within two Catholic Diocese in Pennsylvania.

One of the lawsuits, which is against the Diocese of Harrisburg, centers around Father John Allen, a priest who served within the diocese for decades in multiple parishes, including churches in Dauphin and Lancaster counties.

Allen is listed on the public list released by the Diocese of Harrisburg on August 1.

He is described as having "multiple allegations of sexual abuse of children."

The suit say allegations of child sex abuse by Allen were reported to Bishop William Keeler by a seminarian in the 1980s but Allen remained at the Harrisburg Diocese.

Allegedly, Allen was moved to a "retirement home" in Downingtown, Pennsylvania in 1992 after suffering a "nervous breakdown."

The lawsuit, however, says the retirement home was a facility used to treat priests accused of sex abuse.

It also states Allen was assigned to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in Harrisburg after he left the "retirement home" in 1995.

There, an alter boy, who is now the alleged survivor bringing the lawsuit going by John Doe, said Allen groped and sexually molested him a dozen times in different locations within the church.

The lawsuit says a victim of Allen's abuse reported Allen to police in 2002, in which Allen promptly resigned.

It states he was defrocked from the church in 2006.

According to the lawsuit, Allen could not be charged with a crime due to an expiration of statute of limitations.

Ben Andreozzi, the attorney for the survivor, said the survivor who says he wants to face Allen in court, since Allen is believed to be alive.

"We want answers from the perpetrator as to why he did this but we're also importantly trying to discover who empowered him? Who knew what?" said Andreozzi.

When asking the Diocese of Harrisburg for comment, we received the following statement from a spokesperson: "We are still reviewing a copy of the lawsuit, so it would not be appropriate for us to comment on it at this time. With that being said, John Allen was included on our list of "Clergy and Seminarians Accused of Sexual Assault of a Child released last week. The Diocese of Harrisburg would again pass on our most sincere apologies to the survivors of child sexual abuse, the Catholic faithful, and the general public for any abuses that occurred."

The second lawsuit is against the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular in Cambria County.

An alleged survivor was looking to sue Brother Stephen Baker, but Baker committed suicide in 2013.

Andreozzi says the basis of this lawsuit comes from details revealed in the grand jury report on child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

He said the purpose of the lawsuit is to get specific answers for the survivor, such as who knew about Baker's abuse?

After the list of accused clergy was made public, FOX43 asked Bishop Ronald Gainer about sending clergymen accused of abuse to "treatment."

He said it's a step the church takes to remove those accused from the public while also trying to understand "what is going on inside the man's head."

"We're dealing with people who are not well, mentally and emotionally, so when we find someone who has an allegation made against them and sometimes they'll admit it very quickly. Other times, they try to deny it but the evidence is incontrovertible," said Bishop Gainer.

The lawsuit states John Doe has suffered from psychological and psychiatric problems as a result of the abuse, including depression, anxiety and addiction.

An alleged survivor who spoke with us about abuse at the hands of a former priest within the Harrisburg Diocese, Herbert Shank, gave perspective on how the abuse changed his life.

"It's hard to go through a daily life and to have these things come up and haunt you on a pretty regularly, daily basis and to have to face people and go out in public and have to face your family and your friends and your spouse and your kids. There's a whole mess of...Things that this causes. These scars run very, very deep," said the source, who chose to remain anonymous.

Andreozzi issued the following statement in regards to an investigation FOX43 aired Monday and Tuesday about allegations against Shank: "Last week, another of our brave clients confronted his abuser, Herbert Shank, a former Harrisburg Diocese priest, by sending a team of investigative journalists to Shank’s door. In a videotaped confrontation, It was obvious Shank did not comprehend the damage that he inflicted on his victims. Because that client is over the age of 30, by law he did not have the opportunity to seek justice though the judicial system. We hope Pennsylvania’s legislature takes note that people like Herbert Shank are living in our communities and many will go undetected unless we change these arcane laws."

Andreozzi says the legal proceedings in these civil cases could start in the next two months.

As for a potential jury trial, He said he thinks the earliest possible start would be in a year but, more realistically, they're anticipated to start in another year and a half, two years.

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