Survivors of alleged child sex abuse file federal lawsuit against US Catholic Conference of Bishops

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BALTIMORE, Md. --- Six people from five different states, including Pennsylvania, are taking the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops to federal court.

They say they are all survivors of child sex abuse at the hands of clergy.

The lawsuit was filed in a U.S. District Court in Minnesota on Tuesday.

They announced the lawsuit Wednesday only a few blocks away from where bishops from around the country were meeting.

“We are taking the opportunity to do everything we can, together, to protect the kids. To disgorge the secrets. To disgorge and disclose the dangers that they won’t,” said Jeff Anderson, attorney representing the six survivors.

The lawsuit alleges the Catholic Conference of Bishops is maintaining a "public nuisance" for its handling of sexual abuse by clergy.

The goal of the lawsuit is to get the names of clergy or other members accused of abuse, as well as their history of abuse, released by every Catholic Diocese in the country.

One of the alleged survivors leading the lawsuit is Phillip DiWilliams, 62, from Philadelphia.

DiWilliams says he was sexually abused as a teenager by a priest, Father John Schmeer of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in the late 1960s-early 1970s.

Fr. Schmeer's name appears in the 2005 grand jury report on child sex abuse within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The lawsuit says "Fr. Schmeer remains a priest..." with Anderson clarifying they believe he still holds his title.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia says Fr. Schmeer "has not been in ministry since 2004. In November of that year his ministry was permanently restricted and faculties to exercise ministry were permanently withdrawn."

DiWilliams said he filed his own lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2011 but it was thrown out in 2013 on grounds of statute of limitations.

He said his reason for joining this federal lawsuit is not about financial gain but with the hope of protecting kids from future abuse.

“The bishops, who are the moral authorities, [if] they really wanted it to be out there, why should there be a lawsuit? Think about it. Why should there be a lawsuit from the great people in the world? Why should they have a lawsuit? I’m disappointed it got this far...It’s a shame,” said DiWilliams.

A FOX43 request for comment on the lawsuit by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has not been answered to this point.

The lawsuit was filed one day after the Vatican requested the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops to delay a vote on reforms pertaining to the child sex abuse crisis.

Anderson said due to the scope of the lawsuit, there is no timetable for movement with the lawsuit.

He said they expect a legal battle to take before getting to their intended legal battle.

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