Latest Pittsburgh lawsuit against Catholic church alleges molestation on trip to Super Bowl X

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jan 29, 2019


PITTSBURGH – Two supposed 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, in addition to ranking diocese officials, are mentioned in new litigation filed in Pittsburgh.

The grand jury report, released in August, alleges there were 301 priests in six dioceses who were allowed by the church to abuse children. Included in the list of priest names were both Rev. Thomas M. O’Donnell and Rev. Raymond Rhoden, the two clergy members named in some of the newest priest abuse cases. Due to current Pennsylvania law prohibiting such an action, neither priest is officially named as a defendant in the cases.

Additionally, 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.

Aside from the instant cases, a number of other 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.

Martin Nasiadka, a 56-year-old man who now lives in Pittsburgh, says he was just 12 years old when he was first sexually assaulted by O’Donnell, a priest who formerly served throughout the Pittsburgh Diocese beginning in 1960. His name appears in the grand jury report as a clergy member accused of child abuse.

From May 1975 to June 1983, O’Donnell was assigned to Annunciation Catholic School/Church in Pittsburgh, where he served in ministry and assisted in mentoring children, including Nasiadka.

The suit states O’Donnell would observe Nasiadka play basketball from across the rectory and invite him to receive a drink of water, which led to him subsequently inviting the plaintiff to receive tours of the church, the opportunity to roll coins from church donations and to drink wine.

Within a month’s time, Nasiadka alleges O’Donnell was molesting him twice a week, engaging him in fondling, masturbation with ejaculation, oral sex and anal intercourse.

“The sexual abuse continued on numerous occasions, and in 1976, Father O’Donnell invited plaintiff to attend Super Bowl X in Florida with he and two other boys. During the week of the Super Bowl, O’Donnell required the boys to share a room with him. He required the plaintiff to share a bed with him, and he repeatedly sexually abused the plaintiff over the course of several days. Plaintiff endured what he termed a ‘week of Hell’ and ended all further communication with Father O’Donnell when he returned to Pittsburgh,” his suit states.    

According to the grand jury report, the diocese became aware of O’Donnell’s alleged criminal behavior in 1981 and continued to receive reports of such behavior until 2002. However, the lawsuit says O’Donnell was continually transferred to other parishes and locations, without any action by the diocese to protect its children.

O’Donnell was later permitted to attend a Navy memorial mass ceremony, needing approval from the diocese to do so in keeping with Navy requirements. Though allegedly being aware of the allegations against O’Donnell, diocese officials approved his request.

Another plaintiff, listed only as John Doe 5, is an Allegheny County resident who levies similar charges against the diocese, one of its former priests, Zubik and Wuerl.

Doe says he was abused by Rhoden, formerly a priest in the diocese from 1976 to 2002. Rhoden was a priest assigned at various times to eight different parishes within the diocese, including Nativity of Our Lord Catholic School/Parish in Pittsburgh from November 1976 to July 1982.

Rhoden served as an instructor, basketball coach and mentor at the school. Doe was a member of the basketball team from 5th Grade through 8th Grade, in addition to serving as an altar boy. Both of these activities led him to have frequent interaction with Rhoden.

“From 1978 until 1980, Father Rhoden sexually abused the plaintiff within the church offices and Father Rhoden’s automobile. Father Rhoden’s continual sexual abuse of the plaintiff, who was a minor at the time, including the following acts: Fondling, masturbation with ejaculation and engaging in oral sex with the plaintiff. The sexual abuse continued on numerous occasions over the course of two years and eventually ended in 1980,” according to the lawsuit.

“According to the report, in 2002 the Diocese was made aware that Father Rhoden sexually abused a minor between 1976 and 1977. Despite knowledge of detailed sexual abuse that occurred on numerous occasions, the defendants allowed Rhoden to remain in retirement and collect monetary benefits that were continually increased despite defendants’ knowledge that Rhoden was a sexual abuser. Father Rhoden met with the Diocese Defendants and admitted the sexual abuse.”

The suit further alleges that despite the defendants’ knowledge of Rhoden’s sexual abuse of children, he was transferred to seven other locations over the course of his ministerial career, allowed to retire and rewarded with monetary retirement benefits.

“In January 2003, after having extensive knowledge of Father Rhoden’s sexual abuse of minors, defendant Wuerl granted Father Rhoden an additional $400 per month in retirement funds. The diocese defendants, over the course of many years, concealed Father Rhoden’s sexual abuse and knowingly exposed populations of children to an unreasonable risk of injury and sexual molestation,” the lawsuit reads.

Rhoden passed away in 2006.

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

The plaintiffs are 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-19-000606 & GD-19-000607

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

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