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Class action lawsuit filed against PA’s eight dioceses; respective archbishop, bishops

A class action lawsuit has been filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's seven Roman Catholic Dioceses (Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Scranton and Altoona-Johnstown) and the most-senior clergy member of each institution, respectively: Archbishop Charles Joseph Chapnut, Bishop David Zubik, Bishop Alfred Schlert, Bishop Lawrence Persico, Bishop Edward Malesic, Bishop Ronald Gainer, Bishop Joseph Chapnute and Bishop Mark Bartchak.

The lawsuit says that because of the defendants' alleged cover-up, the four state and county grand jury reports did not reflect a complete accounting of the abuse, abusers and those who concealed and facilitated it, which according to the suit, "is a direct violation of the Pennsylvania reporting statutes which require Defendants to report any known or suspected child abuse which require Defendants to report any known or suspected child abuse ..."

The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and is filed by the plaintiffs -- an abuse survivor and the guardian of a child currently in a Catholic school -- and those who were sexually assaulted by the defendants' priests and children who are currently enrolled in Catholic schools, religious positions or who occupy positions in the defendants' dioceses.

The lawsuit seeks a court-imposed injunction to, at a minimum, compel the defendants to:

  • Meet the "Mandatory Reporting Obligations" on both a historical and going-forward basis and provide sufficient evidence to the Court that they have and will do so;
  • Make a complete disclosure of all records and information in their possession, custody or control during the time period from September 17, 1948 to the present pertaining to alleged sexual abuse of any minors. Plus, request the court to appoint a special master to make sure the victims' sensitive information remain confidential and provide a way for victims to review records pertaining to them to verify the records exist, are accurate and complete, and are available to be reviewed by Pennsylvania government officials and law enforcement;
  • Provide notice approved by the Court to Pennsylvanians of their right and opportunity to provide additional information as victims or witnesses relating to alleged sexual abuse of children by the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, as such notice and reporting with further assist in abating Defendants' public nuisance, with such notice paid for by Defendants;
  • Declare that the acts that have formed the basis of the continuing public nuisance actually occurred and are unlawful; and
  • Be accountable for their actions and take responsibility by publicly acknowledging the alleged wrongdoings filed in the suit