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Westmoreland

Lawsuit against Greensburg Diocese names deceased priest

Deb Erdley
| Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, 2:00 p.m.

An Allegheny County man who says he was sexually abused for three years beginning in 1978 by a now-deceased priest in the Greensburg Diocese has sued the diocese, citing the August statewide grand jury report.

The man, a former altar boy identified only as John Doe, filed his lawsuit Tuesday as the Pennsylvania Senate weighed a measure recommended by the grand jury and recently approved by the state House. The proposal would create a two-year window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are now older than 30 to sue their abusers. Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations currently bars people like Doe from filing civil claims related to childhood abuse after they turn 30.

The new complaint names the late Joseph A. Tamilowski, a priest who served in several parishes from 1954 until his death in 1994. Diocesan records revealed that another former altar boy reported in 2002 that Tamilowski fondled him on multiple occasions during the 1960s at Mission of St. Mary Church in Schenley, the grand jury report said.

The Greensburg Diocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in Westmoreland County.

The lawsuit, filed by Pittsburgh lawyer Alan Perer, charges that while Doe was an altar boy at St. Hyacinth parish in Monessen, Tamilowski plied him with alcohol and forced him to perform sex acts. Doe claims in the lawsuit that he finally escaped Tamilowski’s attentions when he left for college.

His suit said he suffered anew after learning in the grand jury report of the church’s history of covering up such behavior.

Over a 40-year career in the priesthood, Tamilowski served parishes in Monessen, New Kensington, Mt. Pleasant, Leechburg, Schenley, Harrison City and Fayette City and Uniontown.

“Based on the grand jury report, it is likely that the Greensburg Diocese had information well before this victim was abused by this priest. It’s our view because the evidence was largely concealed, there is a legal basis to extend the statute. It becomes an issue for a jury to decide,” Perer said.

The lawsuit is among multiple clergy sexual abuse complaints Perer has filed since the grand jury report, including seven in the Pittsburgh Diocese and two against the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

The Legislature has not extended the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse or adopted window of opportunity legislation for complaints such as Doe’s. But Perer told the Tribune-Review the Supreme Court could take action on the issue should any of his suits end up there on appeal.

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 412-320-7996, derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.

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