Child abuse lawsuit filed against Diocese of Pittsburgh

Child abuse lawsuit -- believed first post-grand jury -- filed against Diocese of Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — A child abuse lawsuit, believed to be the first post-grand jury suit against the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, has been filed.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a man who was allegedly sexually abused by a priest as a child, also names Bishop David Zubik and Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

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According to a news release, the victim was sexually assaulted numerous times from 1979 to 1984 by John Hoehl, who was named in the grand jury report on abuse by priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses.

The release said the grand jury report showed more than 20 complaints of sexual abuse were brought against Hoehl -- who was employed as a priest, pastor and later as a high school headmaster by the Diocese.

The abuse started when the victim was 12 years old in 1979 and occurred at Hoehl’s residence at the Quigley School in Baden and at his cabin in Somerset, the lawsuit said, until 1984.


The attorney for the victim told Channel 11 the Diocese of Pittsburgh hid more abuse claims about Hoehl.

"He has suffered tremendously," said Alan Perer, James Saitta's attorney. "It's haunted him for years, the silence."

Saitta came forward in 2011 and told the Diocese of Pittsburgh, but the recent grand jury report indicates the Diocese received the first complaint about Hoehl in 1986 then sent him for treatment.

Counselors told the Diocese he was a pedophile.

"He admitted he abused a bunch of boys," Perer said. "He, and they, admitted to the Diocese he was a pedophile. He should have been arrested at that point."

Instead, according to the grand jury report, Hoehl was assigned educational consultant for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and then a chaplain at Shadyside Hospital.

He resigned in 1988 when the Diocese of Pittsburgh told him he could no longer continue in the ministry.

The grand jury uncovered more than 20 complaints of sexual abuse against Hoehl.

Perer contends the statute of limitations shouldn't apply because the information about Hoehl was never made public.

"Because this information, this evidence, couldn't have been discovered because it was hidden, there is legal precedence to extend the statute of limitations, civilly, to allow the case to proceed forward," Perer said.

The case will seek expansion of the statute of limitations for past victims of abuse under existing Pennsylvania legal principles and accepted public policy.

The victim did not testify before the grand jury, but because of the new information in the report, he's now taking legal action.

Perer told Channel 11 the issue of statute of limitations will likely wind up in the state Supreme Court.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Pittsburgh told Channel 11 there was no comment on the lawsuit.