- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania Catholic diocese and a priest are denying allegations by two sisters who say the priest repeatedly molested them as girls, including one at her First Communion party.

Attorneys for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese and the Rev. Charles Bodziak say he “denies any sexual interest in children and denies he ever utilized his position to ‘groom’ or seek sexual gratification from any child, at any time.”

The Altoona Mirror first reported Wednesday on the church response filed Oct. 7 in Blair County court.

The church attorneys argue the lawsuits filed in June by the sisters, now in their 40s, are barred by the statute of limitations, which requires alleged child-sex abuse victims to sue by the time they are 30.

The women’s attorney, Richard Serbin, says an exception should be made because the lawsuits are based largely on a grand jury report that the state attorney general released in March. Bodziak was labeled a child predator in the report. He has not been charged with a crime.

“The grand jury report establishes the failure of diocesan defendants to fully and truthfully admit their knowledge of the problem of child sexual predators within the diocese,” Serbin wrote in response to the church’s argument.

Bodziak, now in his mid-70s, was placed on leave by Bishop Mark Bartchak in January while the diocese “re-examines an allegation of sexual misconduct involving minors against Father Bodziak dating back more than 30 years,” diocesan spokesman Tony DeGol said earlier this year.

Diocesan attorney Eric Anderson wouldn’t comment on the grand jury report.

One of the women says she met Bodziak at St. Leo Church in Altoona, when he was the parish priest and she was in the second grade. She alleges he groped and kissed her at her communion party and repeatedly molested her into her sixth-grade year of school. Her sister alleges Bodziak molested her from when she was 8 to 14 years old, giving her wine on several occasions and once fondling her as she practiced playing the church organ.

They also sue two former bishops once associated with the diocese.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who allege they were victims of sexual abuse.


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