Abuse survivor calls on Greensburg Diocese to support window of opportunity for clergy abuse claims
A clergy sexual abuse survivor whose testimony sent a Greensburg diocesan priest to prison stepped forward Tuesday to blast the church for opposing a law that would allow adults with old claims to sue the church.
Josh Kiley, the 37 year-old man whose tale of sexual abuse as a 10-year-old boy at St. Margaret Mary School in Lower Burrell triggered the investigation that sent the Rev. John T. Sweeney to prison, appeared with his lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, on Tuesday via Skype at a news conference in Pittsburgh.
Kiley says he was silent for too long.
Authorities originally charged Sweeney, then a priest in West Newton, with felony involuntary deviate sexual intercourse after Kiley came forward in 2016 and told a grand jury the priest sexually assaulted him in the school office and then had his secretary serve the him cookies and milk.
Sweeney, 77, was sentenced to 11½ months to five years in prison in December after he pleaded guilty to a single count of indecent assault and apologized for his actions. A judge called Sweeney’s acts “a vile offense.”
A second, as-yet-unnamed 34-year-old man, who says Sweeney abused him at St. James Roman Catholic Church in Apollo in 1998, joined Kiley’s call for the church to drop its opposition to a change in the statute of limitations that would create a window of opportunity for individuals with old claims to sue.
The two men, both of whom are represented by Garabedian, said such proceedings are the only way to determine just how extensive such abuse was.
The second man said he was able to come forward with the entire account of his assault only three months ago and then only after years of therapy.
“I couldn’t tell my parents when I was 12 or 13, they wouldn’t have believed me. I haven’t even told my family yet. Given that Sweeney was transferred seven times in his career, I think there’s probably a lot more (victims) out there.” he said in a telephone interview.
The grand jury that heard Kiley’s testimony issued a report in August 2018 detailing allegations of sexual abuse against 301 priests across Pennsylvania over a period of seven decades.
Kiley, who is now in the military, said he declined to apply to the compensation fund the Greensburg Diocese established for survivors of clergy sexual assault because those who accepted payments from the funds were required to sign away any future rights to sue.
“ I am not going to take their hush money. It’s just a way to protect the church in case the statue of limitations changes. …I’m not going to stay silent. I’ve been silent too long,” Kiley said.
He said it’s critical that survivors get their day in court and called on the diocese to support changes in the statute of limitations.
Church officials said Kiley tried to exact a big payday last summer.
“Contrary to what has been said, after Mr. Kiley came forward to authorities, and subsequently contacted the Diocese with a $20 million settlement demand, he was offered the opportunity to participate in the Comprehensive Reconciliation Initiative, which included submitting a claim through the Diocese Survivors’ Compensation Program,” Greensburg Diocesan Spokesman Jerry Zufelt wrote.
The compensation fund that closed its books last summer paid $4.35 million, or an average of $76,315 each, to settle claims with 57 adults who suffered child sexual abuse at the hands of clergy.
Garabedian confirmed that Kiley had sought $20 million and said his anonymous client sought a $1 million settlement. He said Bishop Edward C. Malesic did not respond to either man.
Zufelt, however, said Malesic has met with every survivor who requested a meeting and has made it clear that abuse is not tolerated in the church.
Six Pennsylvania Catholic Dioceses and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia established compensation funds last winter as Pennsylvania lawmakers weighed the possibility of creating a two-year window of opportunity for abuse survivors with old claims to sue the church.
Although the effort stalled at the last moment, similar legislation in neighboring states recently passed. In New York, which opened its courts to old claims earlier this year, more than 400 suits were filed within a week.
Garabedian, who was a key player in the investigation that revealed extensive clergy sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese in 2002, said he represents nearly 200 clergy abuse survivors in Pennsylvania.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .