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Group that supports victims abused by Catholic priests wants action by lawmakers, Greensburg diocese

September 7, 2018
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Pam Erdely (left), a victim of abuse by a nun, stands beside Pittsburgh SNAP representative Francis Samber, during a Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests press conference outside of the Dioceses of Greensburg Pastoral Center, in Greensburg, on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018.

A national group that supports victims of clergy sexual abuse called on Pennsylvania lawmakers Monday to pass reforms recommended by the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury last week.

Five members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, made their demands outside the Diocese of Greensburg Pastoral Center on East Pittsburgh Street. SNAP held a similar event outside the Diocese of Pittsburgh chancery.

“SNAP urges lawmakers to pass a civil window that would deter future cover-ups and protect kids today by enabling abuse victims to expose those who commit or conceal child sex crimes in court,” said Judy Jones, SNAP’s Midwest regional leader.

Jones was referring to a proposal to temporarily allow people older than 30 to file civil lawsuits over sexual abuse that occurred when they were younger than 18. Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations prohibits childhood civil abuse claims after 30 and criminal claims after 50.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops should “stop lobbying against statute-of-limitations reform and the other recommendations put forward by the grand jury,” Jones said.

Those recommendations include changing the abuse reporting law to clarify the duty to report abuse and ensuring that nondisclosure agreements not cover communications with law enforcement.

Jones also called on Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic to:Publicly “expose, demote and discipline current and former church staffers who helped hide abuse;” andPut copies of the grand jury report in the back of all churches in the four-county diocese for dissemination.

The diocese responded Monday with the following statement: “The voices of survivors need to be heard today. Bishop Malesic is hopeful more people will come forward to tell their stories. The Diocese of Greensburg stands ready to help them begin to heal, beginning with a sincere apology. We are sorry.”

Carrying a sign that said “We Don’t Need Prayer, We Need Justice,” North Huntingdon resident Frances Samber said she attended Monday’s event on behalf of her brother, the late Michael Unglo. He committed suicide in May 2010 after being told by the Pittsburgh diocese that it was ending payments for his treatment at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Mass., Samber said. He was 39.

Unglo allegedly was sexually abused by the Rev. Richard Dorsch in the 1980s while he was attending All Saints Catholic Church and School in Etna. The abuse lasted from the fifth to the eighth grade, Samber said.

“You can’t allow a system to rape boys and then require those boys to ask that same system for help,” she said. “You can’t forget decades of children.”

The grand jury’s seven-page case summary on Dorsch includes a description of the abuse suffered by Unglo, although he is not named. Unglo’s family sued the Pittsburgh diocese for negligence after his death.

Dorsch took a leave of absence in 1994 and was withdrawn from ministry in 1996, according to the grand jury report.

Jones encouraged victims in the Greensburg diocese to call the attorney general’s clergy abuse hotline at 888-538-8541.

“It seems like victims in Greensburg are more quiet, which might have something to do with the fact that it’s a smaller community,” Jones said. “We are taught from Day 1 not to question the authority of the church, and that’s how they got away with this for so long.”

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