An allegation of sexual abuse – made by an anonymous male victim identified only as “A.L.” – has led to the filing of a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Bishop McCort Catholic High School and Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular.
The plaintiff, represented by Aaron Rihn, a Pittsburgh personal injury attorney, has accused the defendants of negligence, fraud, constructive fraud, conspiracy and fraudulent concealment, according to a complaint filed on Thursday in the Cambria County Court of Common Pleas.
No priest accused in the 2016 grand jury report that exposed alleged abuse and cover-up within the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese is listed as having been at Bishop McCort during the time when the alleged abused occurred from 2000 to 2002.
The alleged abuser is listed as “John Doe” in the filing, but identified as a priest, Franciscan and athletic trainer employed by the school and ostensibly by the diocese. He is deceased.
“There are a lot of factors that go into the decision of whether or not to identify the individual,” Rihn said. “But the culpable party and probably the only party that’s in a position to compensate the victim here is the diocese.”
An Altoona-Johnstown spokesman was contacted, but the diocese has a standing practice of not commenting on litigation. Bishop McCort Catholic High School Board of Trustees Chairman Timothy Clark did not respond to a request for an interview.
“A.L.” is identified as having been a freshman in 2000-01 and sophomore in 2001-02.
In the claim, Rihn states that the plaintiff pulled a groin muscle while climbing a rock wall when attending a freshman day camp at Camp Harmony in Somerset County.
“Under the guise of treatment, John Doe began to rub Plaintiff’s leg,” according to the civil complaint. “As he rubbed Plaintiff’s leg, he moved his hand up Plaintiff’s leg and grabbed his penis. John Doe then proceeded to digitally penetrate Plaintiff.”
Other incidents of alleged abuse occurred, including in a bathroom at Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, located near Bishop McCort in Johnstown.
“Plaintiff was unable to tell his parents due to his shame and confusion; however, his family did notice a behavioral change in him after the assaults occurred,” according to the document.
The alleged victim claims to have suffered humiliation, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, guilt, shame, severe mental anguish that necessitated psychiatric care, past physical harm, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of earnings due to an inability to work due to trauma. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations – age 30 for civil claims – has elapsed in this case.
However, earlier this year, a ruling in a case brought against the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, a Superior Court of Pennsylvania panel ruled that if a jury finds a confidential relationship resulted in fraudulent concealment, then defendants cannot gain favorable rulings based upon the statute of limitations being reached.
Rihn said the case versus the diocese, school and friars has been brought as a result of that ruling.