Clergy Sex Abuse In Pennsylvania

Several grand jury reports identified widespread Catholic priest abuse in Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic Dioceses over the span of several decades. After the release of these reports, state lawmakers expanded the deadlines for child sexual abuse survivors to take legal action. Lawmakers are also considering a “look back” window to further expand the legal rights of survivors.

As survivors’ rights increase, Pennsylvania state courts are likely to see more lawsuits filed against abusive clergy members and the Catholic dioceses that covered up the abuse.

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Several grand jury reports identified widespread Catholic priest abuse in Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic Dioceses over the span of several decades. After the release of these reports, state lawmakers expanded the deadlines for child sexual abuse survivors to take legal action. Lawmakers are also considering a “look back” window to further expand the legal rights of survivors.

As survivors’ rights increase, Pennsylvania state courts are likely to see more lawsuits filed against abusive clergy members and the Catholic dioceses that covered up the abuse.

Free, Confidential Case Evaluation.

*Cases may be filed anonymously to protect the victim’s identity.

Pennsylvania Priest Abuse Grand Jury Report

In 2018, a grand jury published the Pennsylvania Diocese Victims Report. This report was the result of a two-year investigation into six of the eight Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania.

The grand jury investigated child sexual abuse claims in the following Pennsylvania Dioceses:

  • Allentown Diocese
  • Erie Diocese
  • Greensburg Diocese
  • Harrisburg Diocese
  • Pittsburgh Diocese
  • Scranton Diocese

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese were excluded from the investigation. These dioceses were part of earlier grand jury reports. 

For this report, the grand jury heard testimony from victims and reviewed more than 500,000 internal diocesan documents on abuse. The report reviewed abuse allegations spanning 70 years, with claims documented as early as the 1940s. 

Key Findings Of The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

Abusers

  • The report identified more than 300 abusive clergy members.
  • Many of the priests identified were deceased, dismissed or retired from the ministry.
  • Of the more than 300 clergy members identified in the report, only two priests were criminally charged after the report.

Victims

  • The report identified more than 1,000 victims of clergy abuse.
  • The majority of the victims identified were boys, though girls were victims in some cases.

The Church’s Role In The Abuse

The grand jury report also looked at how Catholic Church leaders responded to reports of abuse. In most of the cases studied by the grand jury, church officials kept the abuse quiet to avoid scandal. 

Church leaders used multiple tactics to avoid public scrutiny:

  • Church leaders downplayed the nature of the abuse in their reports. 
  • Church leaders moved abusive priests to new parishes instead of dismissing the priests. 
  • Church leaders neglected to report abuse claims to local law enforcement agencies. 

Legal Consequences Of The Report

Out of more than 300 abusive clergy members identified in the grand jury report, only two of these cases fell within the legal deadline to file criminal charges. These two abuse cases were relatively recent.

The majority of the credible abuse cases identified by the grand jury report fell outside of the state’s statute of limitations.

This means prosecutors can no longer press criminal charges against an abuser once the criminal statute of limitations has passed. Likewise, victims cannot file a civil lawsuit against an abuser once the civil statute has expired.

Pennsylvania Clergy Abuse Lawsuits

The majority of the clergy abuse cases in Pennsylvania have expired in the legal system because the incidents took place decades ago. This means many survivors of clergy abuse are unable to file civil lawsuits against their abusers.

In 2019, recognizing this obstacle, Pennsylvania lawmakers extended the legal deadline for survivors to file civil claims against an abuser. They also eliminated the criminal statute for most felony sexual offenses against minors.

However, even with these new deadlines in place, many survivors in Pennsylvania are still barred from legal action. 

To allow more survivors to bring forward claims, Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a two-year “look back” window. During this period, any survivor of child sexual abuse would be able to file a civil lawsuit, regardless of when the abuse took place.

Several other states, including California, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, opened similar “look back” windows for child sexual abuse survivors.

What Is The Statute Of Limitations On Priest Sexual Abuse In Pennsylvania?

All legal claims of child sexual abuse filed in Pennsylvania must follow the state’s statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs vary based on the jurisdiction, the crime and the intended legal action (criminal charges versus a civil claim).

In Pennsylvania, there are two different statutes for child sexual abuse claims. There is one statute for pressing criminal charges and another for filing a civil lawsuit against an abuser.

Pennsylvania Civil Statute For Child Sex Abuse

In Pennsylvania, victims of child sexual abuse may file a civil lawsuit against their abuser until they reach the age of 55.

Pennsylvania Criminal Statute For Child Sex Abuse

As of 2019, there is no criminal statute of limitations for most felony sexual offenses against a minor in the state of Pennsylvania. For other felonies and misdemeanors, criminal charges must be brought forth before the victim turns 55 years of age.

What Is the Difference Between a Criminal Case and Civil Lawsuit?

If the abuser (defendant) is found guilty in a criminal case, he or she may face probation or time in prison. The victim (plaintiff) would only receive money if the court requires the defendant to pay restitution to the plaintiff.

If the abuser (defendant) is found liable in a civil case, he or she must pay a monetary award to the victim (plaintiff). The amount of the award is determined by the jury. The award covers any damages caused by the abuse.

Pennsylvania Dioceses’ Settlements And Compensation Funds

In recent years, Pennsylvania survivors of clergy abuse have had several avenues to seek compensation. Some have sought the use of victim compensation funds. Other survivors have chosen to sue dioceses within the legal system, receiving settlements or awards.

Pennsylvania Dioceses’ Victim Compensation Funds

As of September 2019, all Pennsylvania Dioceses’ victim compensation funds are closed to new claims.

Following the 2018 grand jury report, seven of the eight Pennsylvania Catholic Dioceses opened victim compensation funds. Victim compensation funds are commonly used by Catholic dioceses across the country to compensate victims of clergy abuse. 

The following Catholic dioceses opened victim compensation funds in Pennsylvania:

  • Allentown Diocese
  • Erie Diocese
  • Greensburg Diocese
  • Harrisburg Diocese
  • Philadelphia Archdiocese
  • Pittsburgh Diocese
  • Scranton Diocese

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown chose not to open a compensation fund for victims of sexual abuse. The diocese cited financial hardships for its decision. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown previously owed more than $17 million in settlements and legal fees related to clergy abuse.

Administrators of the seven Pennsylvania Dioceses’ compensation funds are now reviewing filed claims and allocating money to victims.

Erie Diocese’s Independent Survivors’ Reparation Program (ISRP)

In March 2020, amid the initial coronavirus state lockdowns, the Erie Diocese paused its ISRP. At the time, roughly 40 cases were still pending in the program. The diocese cited a decline in its investments as the reason behind the pause.

Harrisburg Diocese Bankruptcy

On February 19, 2020, the Diocese of Harrisburg became the first diocese in the state of Pennsylvania to file for bankruptcy.

Following the release of the 2018 grand jury report, the Harrisburg Diocese created the Survivor Compensation Program. The program paid $12.1 million to 106 victims of priest abuse. However, the program did not end the stream of lawsuits filed against the diocese.

In order to handle new litigation, the Harrisburg Diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy proceedings are currently underway.

Pennsylvania Dioceses Settlements

Many victims of clergy abuse in Pennsylvania have received settlements through victim compensation funds. However, some survivors have chosen to settle their grievances in court.

$2 Million | Erie Diocese

In March 2019, the Erie Diocese paid $2 million to a survivor of clergy abuse. The plaintiff was a victim of David L. Poulson, a priest with the Erie Diocese. Poulson assaulted the plaintiff approximately 20 times between 2002 and 2010. He was one of the two priests criminally charged following the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

List Of Accused Priests In Pennsylvania By Diocese

This list below includes the names of clergy members and Pennsylvania priests accused of abuse. It does not include employees, volunteers or congregation members accused of abuse in the Pennsylvania Dioceses.

If you or a loved one has been sexually abused by a Catholic priest or clergy member in the state of Pennsylvania, you may have legal rights to compensation. Contact us today and learn more about the legal opportunities available. You deserve justice.


There are 140 accused clergy members from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, PA:


There are 108 accused clergy members from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, PA:

If you do not see the name you’re looking for on our list of Pennsylvania predator priests, it does not prohibit you from filing a lawsuit against your abuser. This list expands as new abuse cases come to light.

Your abuser may also be listed under another state or diocese. Many abusive priests were transferred to new assignments following abuse complaints. Use our nationwide, searchable database of accused Catholic clergy members to see if your abuser was listed elsewhere.

Pennsylvania Priest Abuse Victim Resources

Survivors of child sexual abuse and other types of sexual violence are not alone. Every Pennsylvania county has resources for victims of sexual violence. Review our table below to find helpful resources in your county.

Pennsylvania Sexual Violence Programs by County

CountyFacility NamePhone Number(s)
AdamsVictim ServicesYWCA YorkHotline: 717-846-5400
Hotline: 800-262-8444
AlleghenyPittsburgh Action Against Rape (PARR)Hotline: 1-866-END-RAPE (363-7273)
Office: 412-431-5665
AlleghenyThe Center for VictimsHotline: 1-866-644-2882
Office: 412-482-3240
ArmstrongHelping All Victims in Need (HAVIN)Hotline: 1-800-841-8881
Office: 724-543-1180
BeaverWomen's Center of Beaver CountyHotline: 724-775-0131
Office: 724-775-2032
BedfordYour Safe Haven, Inc.Hotline: 814-623-7664
Hotline: 800-555-5671
BerksSafe BerksHotline: 844-789-SAFE (7233)
Office: 610-373-1206
BlairFamily Services, Inc. Hotline: 814-944-3585
Office: 814-944-3583
BradfordAbuse and Rape Crisis CenterOffice: 570-265-5333
BucksNetwork of Victim Assistance (NOVA)Hotline: 1-800-675-6900
Office: 215-343-6543
ButlerVictim Outreach Intervention Center (VOICE)Hotline: 1-800-400-8551
Office: 724-283-8700
CambriaVictim Services, Inc.Hotline: 800-755-1983
CameronCAPSEA, Inc.Hotline: 814-486-0952
CarbonVictims Resource CenterOffice: 610-379-0151
CentreCentre SafeHotline: 1-877-234-5050
Hotline: 814-234-5050

Office: 814-238-7066
ChesterThe Crime Victims’ Center of Chester CountyHotline: 610-692-7273
Office: 610-692-1926
ClarionPassages, Inc.Office: 814-226-7273
ClearfieldPassages, Inc.Office: 814-371-9677
ClintonRoads to PeaceHotline: 570-748-9509
Office: 570-748-9539
ColumbiaThe Women's Center, Inc.Hotline: 570-784-6631
CrawfordWomen's Services, Inc.Hotline: 814-333-9766
Hotline: 888-881-0189
CumberlandSexual Assault/Rape Crisis ProgramYWCA of CarlisleHotline: 888-727-2877
DauphinViolence Intervention and Prevention ProgramsYWCA of Greater HarrisburgHotline: 1-800-654-1211
DelawareDelaware County Women Against Rape & Crime Victims ServicesHotline: 610-566-4342
ElkCAPSEA, Inc.Hotline: 814-772-1227
ErieCrime Victim Center of Erie County, Inc.Hotline: 814-455-9414
Hotline: 1-800-352-7273
FayetteCrime Victims' Center of Fayette CountyHotline: 724-437-3737
Office: 724-438-1470
ForestA Safe PlaceOffice: 814-755-3175
FranklinWomen In Need, Inc. (WIN)Hotline: 717-264-4444
Hotline: 1-800-621-6660
FultonWomen In Need, Inc. (WIN)Hotline: 717-264-4444
Hotline: 1-800-621-6660
GreeneSexual Trauma Treatment And Recovery Services (STTARS) ProgramSouthwestern Pennsylvania Human Services, Inc. (SPHS)Office: 724-229-5007
HuntingdonThe Abuse NetworkHotline: 717- 242-2444
Hotline: 1-888-810-2444

Office: 814-506-8237
IndianaAlice Paul HouseHotline: 724-349-4444
Hotline: 1-800-435-7249
JeffersonPassages, Inc.Office: 814-849-5303
JuniataThe Abuse NetworkHotline: 717- 242-2444
Hotline: 1-888-810-2444

Office: 717-447-1885
LackawannaWomen's Resource Center, Inc.Hotline: 570-346-4671
Hotline: 1-800-257-5765
LancasterSexual Assault Counseling CenterYWCA LancasterHotline: 717-392-7273
LawrenceCrisis Shelter of Lawrence CountyHotline: 724-652-9036
Office: 724-652-9206
LebanonSexual Assault Resource & Counseling CenterHotline: 1-717-272-5308
Office: 1-717-270-6972
LehighCrime Victims Council of the Lehigh ValleyHotline: 610-437-6611
LuzerneVictims Resource CenterOffice: 570-823-0765
LycomingWise OptionsYWCA Northcentral PA Hotline: 1-800-326-8483
McKeanDomestic Violence & Sexual Assault ServicesYWCA BradfordHotline: 1-888-822-6325
MercerAWARE, Inc.Hotline: 888-981-1457
Office: 724-342-4934
MifflinThe Abuse NetworkHotline: 717- 242-2444
Hotline: 1-888-810-2444

Office: 717-242-0715
MonroeWomen's Resources of Monroe County, Inc.Hotline: 570-421-4200
Office: 570-424-2093
MontgomeryVictim Services Center of Montgomery CountyHotline: 1-888-521-0983
Office: 610-277-0932
MontourThe Women's Center, Inc.Hotline: 570-784-6631
NorthamptonCrime Victims Council of the Lehigh ValleyHotline: 610-437-6611
NorthumberlandTransitionsHotline: 1-800-850-7948
Office: 570-644-4488
PerryViolence Intervention and Prevention ProgramsYWCA of Greater HarrisburgHotline: 1-800-654-1211
PhiladelphiaWomen Organized Against Rape (WOAR)Hotline: 215-985-3333
PikeVictims Intervention Program (VIP)Hotline: 570-253-4401 Hotline: 570-296-HELP (4357)
PotterA Way Out: Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault ServicesHotline: 814-274-0240
Hotline: 877-334-3136
SchuylkillSexual Assault Resource & Counseling Center (SARCC)Hotline: 1-570-628-2965
SnyderTransitionsHotline: 1-800-850-7948
Office: 570-374-7773
SomersetVictim Services, Inc.Hotline: 814-443-1555
SullivanSullivan County Victim ServicesHotline: 570-946-4215
Office: 570-946-4063
SusquehannaWomen's Resource Center, Inc.Hotline: 570-346-4671
Hotline: 1-800-257-5765
TiogaHAVEN of Tioga CountyHotline: 1-800-550-0447
UnionTransitionsHotline: 1-800-850-7948
Office: 570-523-6482
VenangoPPC Violence Free NetworkHotline: 814-677-7273
Hotline: 1-800-243-4944
WarrenA Safe PlaceHotline: 1-800-338-3460
Hotline: 814-726-1030
WashingtonSexual Trauma Treatment And Recovery Services (STTARS) ProgramSouthwestern Pennsylvania Human Services, Inc. (SPHS)Office: 724-229-5007
WayneVictims Intervention Program (VIP)Hotline: 570-253-4401 Hotline: 570-296-HELP (4357)
WestmorelandBlackburn CenterHotline: 1-888-832-2272
Hotline: 724-836-1122
WyomingVictims Resource CenterOffice: 570-836-5544
YorkVictim ServicesYWCA YorkHotline: 717-846-5400
Hotline: 800-262-8444
Sources:Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape

How Do I Report Sexual Abuse By A Priest In Pennsylvania?

If a suspected victim is in immediate danger, call 911.

In Pennsylvania, suspected child abuse, including child sexual abuse, can be reported to the Department of Human Services (DHS). To report suspected abuse, call the department’s ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.

To report clergy abuse in Pennsylvania to the state Attorney General’s Office, call the clergy abuse hotline at 888-538-8541.

You can report incidents of clergy abuse to individual Pennsylvania Dioceses as well. Review the reporting processes for each diocese below:

  • Report Abuse To The Philadelphia Archdiocese

    Call the Archdiocesan Office of Investigations toll free at 1-888-930-9010 to report sexual abuse or misconduct committed by a priest, employee or volunteer of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

    Once you’ve made the report, a Victim Assistance Coordinator will review your report and follow up with you.

    Note: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is required by law to relay any reported incidents of child abuse to the Department of Human Services (DHS) ChildLine. It is also archdiocesan policy to report suspected or reported abuse to local law enforcement.

    Visit the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s website to learn more about reporting suspected abuse.

  • Report Abuse To The Allentown Diocese

    Wendy S. Krisak is the Allentown Diocese Victim Assistance Coordinator. To speak with her directly about sexual abuse in the diocese, call 1-800-791-9209. You can also reach her by email at [email protected].

    Visit the Diocese of Allentown’s website to learn more about the diocese’s initiatives to prevent abuse.

  • Report Abuse To The Altoona-Johnstown Diocese

    You can reach the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown’s Victim/Survivor Assistance Representative Jean Johnstone at 814-944-9388.

    Visit the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown’s website to learn more about reporting suspected abuse.

  • Report Abuse To The Erie Diocese

    The Diocese of Erie retains independent investigators to look into reported abuse claims. To make a report to these investigators, email [email protected].

    You can also report the abuse directly to the diocese by calling 814-451-1543.

    To get in touch with the diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator Dr. Gerard Tobin call 814-451-1521. 

    Visit the Diocese of Erie’s website to learn more about reporting suspected abuse.

  • Report Abuse To The Greensburg Diocese

    To report suspected abuse to a diocesan employee, contact one of the following individuals:

    ​Msgr. Raymond E. Riffle | Delegate for Matters of Clergy and Church Personnel Sexual Misconduct

    724-837-0901 ext. 1221

    ​Paul Niemiec | Victim’s Assistance Coordinator

    724-837-1840 ext. 1655

    Visit the Diocese of Greensburg’s website to learn more about reporting suspected abuse.

  • Report Abuse To The Harrisburg Diocese

    To report suspected abuse concerning a Harrisburg Diocese clergy member, employee or volunteer, call 1-800-626-1608. You can also report suspected abuse to the diocese by emailing [email protected].

    Visit the Diocese of Harrisburg’s website to learn more about the diocese’s efforts to combat abuse.

  • Report Abuse To The Pittsburgh Diocese

    Suspect abuse can be reported to the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Victim Assistance Coordinator at 412-456-3093 or toll-free at 1-888-808-1235.

    Note: The hotline is staffed Monday–Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Those calling after hours have the option to leave a voicemail.

    Visit the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s website to learn more about reporting suspected abuse.

  • Report Abuse To The Scranton Diocese

    The Diocese of Scranton’s Victim Assistance Coordinator Mary Beth Pacuska can be reached at 570-862-7551 or by emailing [email protected].

    Visit the Diocese of Scranton’s website to learn more about reporting suspected abuse.

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Meneo Group managing partner: Ron Meneo

Ron Meneo is the managing partner of The Meneo Law Group. With more than 40 years of experience, he represents clients across the country on a variety of complex legal matters, including personal injury due to institutional sexual abuse, unsafe pharmaceutical drugs and other practice areas. He is a recipient of Martindale-Hubbell’s prestigious AV® Preeminent Rating. He has also served as an editor and contributor for several legal journals.

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