ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) — Two sisters have sued a Catholic priest, his central Pennsylvania diocese and two ex-bishops who supervised him, saying the cleric molested them repeatedly as girls — including one at her first Communion party.
The younger sister, who is now 47, said she met the Rev. Charles Bodziak at St. Leo Church in Altoona, where he was the parish priest, when she was in second grade. At the party her parents threw after her first Communion, Bodziak groped her buttocks and gave her an open mouth kiss, according to the lawsuit.
Bodziak, now 74, repeatedly molested the girl until she was in sixth grade, taking her on school trips where she was fondled, kissed and assured "that what he was doing was 'OK' because he was a priest," her lawsuit said.
The lawsuit filed by her older sister, now 49, makes similar allegations against Bodziak, covering the time when she was 8 to 14 years old. She said Bodziak gave her wine on several occasions before molesting her. Bodziak assaulted her in the rectory after summoning her from school and molested her while she practiced the organ in church, according to her lawsuit.
The Associated Press could not locate an attorney for Bodziak, and three phone numbers listed as his in online databases were not answered Tuesday.
Tony DeGol, a spokesman for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, declined to comment on the allegations, but noted current Bishop Mark Bartchak placed Bodziak "on leave in January as a precautionary measure while the diocese re-examines an allegation of sexual misconduct involving minors against Father Bodziak dating back more than 30 years."
It unclear whether the allegation cited by the diocese relates to the lawsuits filed Tuesday by attorney Richard Serbin, who has been suing the diocese and its priests for alleged molestation of children for decades.
"While these girls are not the youngest I've represented, they are toward the bottom of the scale," said Serbin, who has identified more than 30 diocesan priests as alleged predators in lawsuits he's filed since the 1980s. "They were very young, immature, vulnerable."
"Each of these priests, upon (the diocese) receiving complaints, were reassigned to another parish and Bodziak, sadly, is no different," Serbin said.
Bodziak was labeled a child predator in a grand jury report earlier this year. The report focused on the diocese and was critical of two former bishops who were sued on Tuesday, James Hogan and Joseph Adamec. Hogan, who headed the diocese from 1966 to 1986, died in 2005. Adamec, who succeeded him, retired in 2011.
Adamec's attorney didn't immediately return a call for comment. DeGol said a priest serving as executor of Hogan's estate declined comment.
The lawsuits parrot the grand jury's findings that the bishops were either slow to respond or sought to cover-up allegations of child-sex abuse against Bodziak and dozens of other priests over the last 50 years.
The grand jury report noted that Bodziak remained in ministry after an allegation involving a different girl surfaced in 2003 and Adamec referred it to a review board. The lawsuits quote the grand jury report, which said the board served as a "fact-finding" mechanism that forwarded information to lawyers to help the diocese protect itself from litigation, "not a victim service function."