Man files lawsuit against Diocese of Harrisburg, Bishops for alleged child sex abuse

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A first of its kind lawsuit is filed against the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg. A recent ruling by Pennsylvania's Superior Supreme Court allows child sex abuse survivors to file lawsuits beyond the state of limitations.

"At age nine," said Donald Asbee, who filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Harrisburg alleging child sex abuse. "I began this journey through hell itself."

Asbee, now 67-years-old says, as an altar boy at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Milton, he was molested and raped by Raymond Daugherty and Walter Sempko, both former priests of the Diocese of Harrisburg who have since died.

"It was well orchestrated," said Asbee. "As though I was receiving some sort of sacrament."

Asbee, the plaintiff in the suit, claims the Diocese of Harrisburg, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, and Bishop Ronald Gainer, all named defendants, were familiar with the problem of priests sexually violating children and systematically concealed the alleged abuse.

"This is a case of not a failure to act," said Richard Serbin, Asbee's attorney. "It is in a way a refusal to act."

However, Diocese of Harrisburg Attorney Matt Haverstick says, while he has not had a chance to review the lawsuit, he believes claims of the diocese and Bishop Gainer not doing enough for victims is far from the truth.

"Through the compensation fund, counseling, through provision of the list of accused priests which I note is a bigger list than the office of attorney general turned over," said Haverstick. "So, I think we're doing a good job trying to help survivors."

Asbee was offered $176,000 through the diocese's victim compensation fund, but turned down the amount believing it is ridiculously low given the decades of suffering he's endured since the alleged abuse. He says, he's filed this lawsuit as a way to speak out to anyone willing to listen, to end the cycle of child sexual abuse.

"This isn't just a sin," said Asbee. "It's a crime."

Serbin says, he believes there were more people who contributed to covering up alleged sexual abuse in the diocese but they were not named in the lawsuit because they are no longer living.

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