Pittsburgh, Pa., Jan 9, 2020 / 11:58 am (CNA).- A judge in Pennsylvania is allowing a lawsuit to move forward arguing that the Diocese of Pittsburgh has created a public nuisance by failing to properly report and disclose information on sexual abuse of children.
The lawsuit is filed by both abuse victims and parents of children in the Catholic Church. Their attorney, Benjamin Sweet, said the ruling is unprecedented in supporting a suit filed by individuals who are not alleging abuse against themselves or a family member.
“This is the first time a cause of action has been brought by a non-survivor member of the public and the first time a court has said that is a viable legal strategy, that a private citizen can compel the church to prove it’s complying with the mandatory reporting law,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
He noted that none of the plaintiffs or attorneys are seeking monetary awards or damages in the suit, but said that they hope to push for additional transparency in the Church.
The plaintiffs are asking that the diocese be required to publicly release all of the information given to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury for its 2018 report on sex abuse in the Church in Pennsylvania. They also want a way for people making claims of clerical abuse to ensure that their allegations have been properly filed with the Church and secular authorities, the AP reported.
The suit had originally been filed in 2018 against all of the state’s eight dioceses. However, local CBS affiliate KDKA-2 reported that the judge issued a preliminary dismissal for the other seven Pennsylvania dioceses because there are no specific allegations against them.
Ellen Mady, chancellor of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, told CNA that the diocese is aware of the ruling but cannot comment on pending litigation.
“The diocese is in full compliance with the State of Pennsylvania’s mandated reporting requirements, and reports all allegations regarding sexual abuse of a minor to the district attorney’s office. We pray for healing for all victims,” she added.
According to the AP, diocesan lawyers had argued that they were not required to publicly release information about allegations, just to report them to law enforcement officials.