Allentown Diocese sued over decades-old sex abuse

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A 29-year-old man filed a lawsuit saying that he was sexually abused by former priest Bruno Tucci over several months, at ages 10 to 12, while serving as an altar boy at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Allentown – years after Tucci had previously been outed as a predator to church leadership.

The news comes as the US Conference of Bishops announced during its meeting in Baltimore that, per the Vatican’s request, it will withhold a broader response to the re-emerging Catholic sex abuse scandal until after a global meeting called for by Pope Francis to address the scandal in February 2019 is held. Presidents of all global bishops’ conferences are expected to attend.

In the Allentown diocese, Tucci’s history of abuse – and its cover-up by church officials – was detailed in the grand jury report published after two years of investigation by an investigatory grand jury convened by Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro.

The report, which does not note the abuse described in the new lawsuit, stated another victim had called the diocese in 1991 to report being molested by Tucci at age 14, including during a Christmas mass. Accorording to Diocesan records reviewed by the grand jury, when officials confronted Tucci, he “admitted the allegations and stated that the incidents occurred ‘exactly as the victim reported.’ Tucci said it was ‘just touching’ and clarified he had not engaged in ‘sodomy,'” the grand jury report said.

The church responded by sending Tucci to Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico, a congregation of men for priests and brothers dealing with personal difficulties, for one year, before he returned to the diocese. According to the new lawsuit, first reported by NBC10, it was just years later that Tucci molested the victim.

“After Tucci admitted his guilt in 1991, the Diocese neither disciplined him nor advising parishioners of his misconduct, nor warned parishioners of his perverse proclivities,” reads the lawsuit filed by Philadelphia-based Williams Cedars law firm in Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas on Monday. “Plaintiff suffered abuse at Tucci’s hands over several months between 1999 and 2001.”

The lawsuit targets former Allentown bishop Edward Cullen, who oversaw the Diocese from 1997 to 2009. “Cullen was aware of Tucci’s past misconduct and perversity, but took no action to warn or otherwise protect children of the Diocese, including plaintiff, from Tucci,” it states.

Cullen was named repeatedly in the Pennsylvania attorney general report for failing to properly respond to predator priests – as when, in 2004, he reported in a letter to the Vatican that priest Robert Cofenas had sexually abused teenage boys, and added, “There is great danger that this case could become public,” according to the grand jury report.

The lawsuit against the Allentown Diocese seeks unspecified damages.

Last week, several Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses, including in Philadelphia and Allentown, announced plans to create special new victim compensation funds for victims who cannot sue due to the statute of limitations. The exact size of the funds was not made public. The move comes as legislators in delayed a decision on legislation to extend the statute of limitations on sex abuse claims.

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