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Jesuits, Bishops Sued for Hiding Child Molester in PA Parish

Posted on behalf of Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC on August 14, 2019 in Firm News


This week Richard M. Serbin, Chair of the JJS Sexual Abuse Division, announced legal action he is taking on behalf of two survivors of clergy sexual abuse and rape. This case, and several others, follow the PA Superior Court’s ruling which allows legal action to be taken against abusers, and institutions that enabled them, on the grounds of conspiracy even if statute of limitations laws had previously barred them from seeking justice.


(State College, PA) – The Jesuits of New York, and a current and two former Catholic bishops in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese have been sued for conspiracy and fraud for transferring a seminarian who they knew molested children in Rochester, NY, to a parish in State College. He thereafter repeatedly sexually assaulted both boys and raped one of them. One of the abuse victims took his own life when he was only 32 years old.

Plaintiffs, identified in the lawsuits as John Does, attended Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in State College, and were sexually abused by Father Leonard Riforgiato, who assisted at the parish. Sometimes the assaults took place in the presence of another Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Riley.

“When Father Riforgiato admitted no later than 1969 to his Jesuit Superiors that he had sexually molested children at McQuaide High School in Rochester, NY they should have turned him in to the police. Instead, they provided him with a fresh hunting ground in Pennsylvania, which proved tragic for my clients,” said Attorney Richard M. Serbin, with Janet, Janet & Suggs, who represents the plaintiffs.

Riforgiato died in 1999, after teaching 27 years as an Associate Professor of History at the Shenango Valley Campus of Penn State University, where he also worked with youth groups. “For decades the Jesuits and the bishops conspired to hide Riforgiato’s sexual crimes and those of countless others until forced to identify them in January, 2019 following the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in August, 2018”, Serbin said.

The suits were filed Monday, August 12th, in the Court of Common Pleas, Centre County, Pa.

Father Riley also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus; John J. Cicero, current Provincial of the province; Bishop Mark Bartchak, current Bishop of the Diocese, and the estates of Joseph V. Adamec, and James J. Hogan, two former Altoona Diocese bishops.

In June the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a landmark ruling in one of Serbin’s cases that has the potential for more lawsuits to be filed by abuse victims against supervisors who ignored or hid child sex abuse crimes.

Serbin heads the Sex Abuse Division of Janet, Janet & Suggs, a national firm that represents survivors of sexual abuse against perpetrators and the institutions that enable them. Andrew Janet and Natalie D’Antonio, attorneys with Janet, Janet & Suggs’ sexual abuse division, are co-counsel with Attorney Serbin.

JJ&S head Howard Janet won a confidential settlement for Victim Number Six in his sexual abuse claim against Penn State University and obtained a record $190 million sexual abuse settlement on behalf of 8,000 women against Johns Hopkins Hospital. JJ&S currently is serving as one of several liaison law firms for hundreds of individual lawsuits on behalf of sexual abuse survivors who were student patients of a University of Southern California OB/GYN employed by the university to treat women at its health center.


Janet, Janet & Suggs represented victim number six in his sexual abuse claim against Penn State University, obtained a record sexual abuse settlement on behalf of 8,000 women against Johns Hopkins Hospital, and is currently serving as one of several liaison law firms for hundreds of individual lawsuits on behalf of sexual abuse survivors who were student patients of a University of Southern California OB/GYN employed by the University to treat women at its health center.

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