Lawsuit: Rev. William Yockey, named in grand jury report, molested Connellsville man in 1981-1982

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jan 8, 2019


PITTSBURGH – Reverend William B. Yockey, one of the accused predator priests whose names were listed in a grand jury report that alleges decades of protection for pedophiles working for the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, molested a Connellsville man when he was a teenager, according to new litigation filed in Pittsburgh.

That grand jury report, released in August, alleges there were 301 priests in six dioceses who were allowed by the church to abuse children. Yockey’s name was listed among their ranks. Furthermore, the state Supreme Court recently sided with the requests of additional priests to keep 19 names permanently redacted from the report, over the request of Attorney General Josh Shapiro to make them public.

Besides the instant case, several lawsuits have been filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, targeting the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, its Bishop David A. Zubik and Archbishop of Washington and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, all of Pittsburgh, as defendants.

Richard Bieranowski, a 53-year-old man who now resides in Connellsville, says he was between the ages of 16 and 17 when he was first sexually assaulted by Yockey, a priest who served throughout the Pittsburgh Diocese from 1977 to 1991. His name appears in the grand jury report as a clergy member accused of child abuse.

Yockey is not named as a defendant in the case because Pennsylvania law currently prohibits that from happening – but the suit states should the law be amended, Yockey would be added to the list of defendants.

From October 1978 to June 1983, Yockey was assigned to St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Monroeville, where he served in ministry, as a youth counselor and assisted in mentoring children through the youth group program.

Bieranowski was a member of that program.

Throughout 1981 and 1982, the suit alleges Yockey sexually abused Bieranowski in the rectory and in his private living quarters, through fondling, masturbation with ejaculation and engaging in oral sex.

This caused Bieranowski to suffer embarrassment and humiliation, loss of self-esteem and shame, emotional distress, nightmares, mental anguish and trauma, depression, anxiety, nausea, loss of sleep and other injuries, the suit says.

Per the grand jury report, the diocese became aware of Yockey’s alleged criminal behavior prior to 1986 and it allegedly failed to investigate, discipline or report Yockey as a sexual predator. Rather, they transferred him to another parish, Assumption Church in Bellevue.

Over the following 13 years, the grand jury report stated Yockey would work for parishes in Pittsburgh, Munhall, Mt. Lebanon, Carnegie and Bridgeville, while also working directly for the diocese’s administrative offices and as a chaplain at the Allegheny County Jail.

Despite repeated and further complaints of abuse from subsequent victims, the lawsuit says Yockey continued to be transferred to other locations, rather than be taken out of active ministry and being subject to criminal action.

In July 1991, Yockey sent a letter of resignation to then-Bishop Donald Wuerl, but requested his salary and medical coverage remain in effect. Wuerl accepted the resignation, but allegedly made no mention of the sexual abuse – nor was the abuse mentioned when Yockey later applied for a position with the Veterans Administration in 2006.

“The information above was only made known to plaintiff as a result of the release of the grand jury report in August 2018. The information could not have been obtained by plaintiff earlier, despite the utmost due diligence, since this information was known only to the defendants and contained in what was described as the ‘secret archives’ of the diocese,” according to the lawsuit.

For counts of fraud, constructive fraud and conspiracy, the plaintiff is seeking damages, jointly and severally, in excess of the arbitration limits, plus costs, fees and interest, and demands a trial by jury.

The plaintiff is represented by George M. Kontos and Katie A. Killion of Kontos Mengine Killion & Hassen, in Pittsburgh.

The defendants do not yet have legal counsel listed, according to court records.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas cases GD-18-016739

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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