PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests may finally have their day in court.
Alan Perer, a Pittsburgh Attorney, says an Appellate Court ruling on Tuesday was “a landmark, blockbuster opinion that affects hundreds, if not thousands of victims of priest abuse and affects every (Catholic) Diocese in Pennsylvania.”READ MORE: Pittsburgh Police Officer Richard Howe Dies Of COVID-19 Complications, City Says
The 3-judge Pennsylvania Superior Court panel that issued that opinion Attorney Perer said could have a sweeping impact statewide stemmed from a 2016 grand jury report against the Altoona Johnstown Diocese.
The lawsuit accused the then church leadership of fraud and conspiracy to protect their reputations and the reputation of a Johnstown area priest.
It said church officials in that Diocese assigned Father Leo Bodziak to St. Leo’s Church, despite knowing he molested young girls.
Father Bodziak, allegedly began abusing a girl identified as Renee Rice in the mid-1970s, after her parents agreed she could clean the rectory where he lived.READ MORE: Pa. Supreme Court Says Gun Rights Groups Can Sue Municipalities That Enact Gun Safety Laws In Violation Of State's Preemption Laws
Rice, it said, was allegedly given wine and sexually assaulted by Bodziak. She was about 9 years old when the abuse started and it continued until she turned 14.
Up until now, many clergy sex abuse cases never went to trial, even if credible accusations were made against clergy.
The reason – because a judge would rule that the statute of limitations had run out.
Perer says abuse victims now have reason to hope that their case will end up not before a judge, but rather in the hands of a jury.MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Weather: Tornado Warnings Issued For Multiple Local Counties, Including Allegheny And Washington Counties
He explained, “This case and every case I’ve had, was thrown out, because (a Judge) said – when did the abuse occur? How old are you? Too late. Now, this has changed the law in Pa. It will open the door for so many victim to seek justice.”