Diocese of Scranton named sexual abuse civil lawsuit


SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The Diocese of Scranton, its current bishop and two former bishops are all named in a new lawsuit filed Tuesday morning.

The lawsuit claims they didn’t do enough to protect at least one sexual abuse survivor.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning by a 29 year old Lackawanna County native.

It was filed under a fake name, Richard Roe, to protect his identity.

The lawsuit claims the man was sexually abused more than a decade ago by Father Jeffrey Paulish who is also named in the complaint.

At the Radisson Hotel, lawyers for the 29-year-old man, who claims he was sexually abused by a priest, detailed why he is filing the civil lawsuit.

“The Diocese was responsible for having (Father) Paulish where he was, in proximity to children, in a position of trust,” Gerald Williams, a lawyer for the plaintiff said.

The priest accused of the abuse, Father W. Jeffrey Paulish, is no stranger to headlines.

In 2014, he pleaded guilty to corruption of minors and was sentenced to prison for having sexual contact with a 15-year-old boy.

This lawsuit revolves around allegations from much earlier.

In 2006 and 2007, the plaintiff says Father Paulish inappropriately touched him at least three times while he served as an altar boy at the former Saint Mary Parish in Old Forge.

On one occasion, Father Paulish allegedly rubbed up against the then-teenage boy right before starting mass.

“He’s 29 and he can file this lawsuit and demand the answers that a lot of other victims in this state are not getting right now,” Michelle Simpson Tuegel, attorney for the plaintiff said.

In August, Father Paulish was named as one of 59 predator priests in the Diocese of Scranton by a scathing grand jury report.

His background includes at least four “leave of absences” and a number of transfers.

Lawyers hope subpoena power can shed light on what the Diocese of Scranton and its officials knew about Father Paulish and when.

“In 18 years, he had been transferred 11 times!” Williams said.

In a statement, the Diocese of Scranton said current Bishop Joseph Bambera “will continue to do all that he can to ensure our children are safe from abuse moving forward.”

The Diocese of Scranton also says it “supports all victims of abuse as they bring forward allegations against members of the clergy.”

“Why did this happen for so long? Who was covering it up?” Tuegel questioned.

Father Paulish was sentenced to between eight and 23 months in prison for the crime that happened with the teenage boy in 2013/2014.

He is no longer in active ministry.

This is the second recent lawsuit filed against a local diocese.

Earlier this month, the same group of lawyers announced a civil lawsuit against the Diocese of Allentown for its handling of a possible abuse case in Carbon County.

This is the full statement from the Diocese of Scranton on the civil lawsuit filed:

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera has long held true to his belief that abuse has no place in the Catholic Church. For well over a decade, ongoing improvements have been made to the manner in which abuse allegations are addressed. The Diocese of Scranton adheres to a strict zero tolerance policy, immediately informing law enforcement and removing the accused from ministry when allegations are brought forth, and notifying the parish and the public. The Diocese has recently announced an Independent Survivors Compensation Program for those who have suffered sexual abuse by clergy, religious or lay employees. Bishop Bambera will continue to do all that he can to ensure our children are safe from abuse moving forward, and will address allegations swiftly and transparently, as he has always done. 

The Diocese of Scranton supports all victims of abuse as they bring forward allegations against members of the clergy, and this case is no different. The Diocese will review this particular complaint when it is received. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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