Four alleged sex abuse victims file suit against Pittsburgh diocese

Associated Press/January 15, 2004

Pittsburgh -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh created a system that shielded sexually abusive priests for years, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of four alleged victims Wednesday.

The plaintiffs attended Catholic schools or churches within the diocese, two serving as altar boys, and were abused between 1972 and 1994, according to the lawsuit.

While the four priests allegedly involved are named in court documents, the suit lists the defendants as the diocese, along with Bishop Donald Wuerl and Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, the former head of the Philadelphia archdiocese.

Attorney Richard Serbin said the statute of limitations prevents legal action against the alleged abusers, but not the diocese, which he said protected abusive priests.

"The purpose of the lawsuit was the actions of the hierarchy of the diocese, knowingly placing children in harm's way, knowingly transferring child molesters from parish to parish, without warnings to parents in those new parishes," Serbin said.

The Pittsburgh diocese said one of the priests is dead and three others left the church.

"The Diocese of Pittsburgh affirms the God-given dignity of every person and is deeply saddened when anyone, especially one as vulnerable as a child, is abused in any way," diocesan spokesman Robert Lockwood said in a faxed statement. "Until the diocese has been served a copy of this lawsuit, there cannot be any formal response."

Lockwood said the diocese stands by its record on dealing with abusers.

Bishop Donald Wuerl has been praised for taking a hard line against abusers and was named in 2002 to serve on the five-member committee created to review accountability in clergy sex abuse cases.

James Kushon, 33, one of the alleged victims, said he was first molested as an altar boy when he was 10 years old. The abuse took place in a confessional at All Saints Church in Etna and in a car owned by then-Rev. Richard Dorsch.

Dorsch was convicted of abusing another child in 1995, but not for alleged attacks against Kushon. He said he did testify during Dorsch's sentencing hearing.

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