Altoona-Johnstown Diocese among those named in abuse lawsuit


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Jesuits of New York, a current Catholic bishop, and two former Catholic bishops in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese have been sued for conspiracy and fraud for transferring a seminarian who they knew molested children in Rochester, NY to a parish in State College.

“They were aware before his arrival at Our Lady of Victory State College of his violation of children,” Richard Serbin, Attorney at Law said. “Riforgiato admitted in 1969 to sexually abusing children.”

The plaintiffs, identified as John Does, attended Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in State College and were sexually abused by Father Leonard Riforgiato. Sometimes with assaults taking place in the presence of another Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Riley. One of the abuse victims took his own life when he was only 32 years old.

Riforgiato died in 1999 after teaching 27 years as an Associate Professor of History and the Shenango Valley Campus of PSU, where he also worked with Youth Groups.

“He wasn’t discharged from the Jesuit religion until 1972; 3 years after he admitted to molesting children,” Serbin said.

Both suits, against the Jesuits of New York and the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, were filed on Monday, August 12, 2019, in Centre County, Pa.

Father Riley, USA Northeast Province of the Society Jesus, John J. Cicero, Bishop Mark Bartchak, and the estates of Joseph V Adamec and James J Hogan are also named as defendants.

In June, the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a landmark ruling that has the potential for more lawsuits to be filed by abuse victims against supervisors who ignored or hid child sex abuse crimes.

WTAJ reached out to the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese for comment, and were told they will not be commenting on this situation. Penn State University also declined to comment.

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