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Decades after he was sexually abused by two priests, a 67-year old man has filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Harrisburg, taking advantage of a new Pennsylvania law that allows priest abuse claims to be filed long after the usual statute of limitations has expired.
The complaint was announced by Donald Asbee on July 23, indicating that he was abused abused from the time he was about 9 years told to 15 years old, sometimes violently, by Raymond Dougherty and Walter Sempko of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Both men, former priests, are long since deceased.
The Pennsylvania priest abuse lawsuit is believed to be the first filed under a new laws recently enacted to provide a means of recourse for individuals who have suffered damages as a child.
Asbee, who says he was fondled and sodomized by the two priests and still carries emotional scars, rejected a $176,000 victim’s compensation payout by the diocese, saying it was much too low.
On July 23, the Diocese issued a statement detailing its actions toward compensating victims, indicating that Bishop Gainer had no knowledge of any events of abuse. However, the statement indicates the Diocese can’t discuss the specifics of the lawsuit.
“In my own name, and in the name of the Diocesan Church of Harrisburg, I continue to express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those Church officials who failed to protect children,” Bishop Gainer said in the statement.
Church officials noted in the statement that the alleged incidents happened long before Gainer’s tenure there, and claim he had no knowledge of those incidents until a Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August 2018, indicating that hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in that state had abused at least a thousand children in the state’s six dioceses.
In February, the Vatican held a four-day conference on addressing problems of sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, but critics complain that the conference did not result in any concrete action. However, the Pope did issue a decree that all such incidents have to be reported to law enforcement immediately.
The spotlight on the issue has renewed some efforts to level sex abuse litigation against the Church.