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Sex-abuse trial of Pittsburgh priest delayed until fall.

PITTSBURGH - A 24-year-old Pittsburgh man who says defrocked priest Anthony Cipolla molested him several times from 1982 to 1986 must wait until fall for his day in court.

Allegheny County, Pa., Judge R. Stanton Wettick on April 29 pushed the trial date back to "sometime in October" after attorneys for the accuser, Kenneth Bendig, asked for time to gather more witness depositions. The trial was originally set for May 4.

Bendig's civil suit names Cipolla, the Pittsburgh diocese, Bishop Donald Wuerl and two of his predecessors, a nun and three priests. Bendig says he was 13 when the abuse allegedly started, and the individuals named in the suit knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it. He is seeking $20,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Wuerl placed Cipolla on "administrative leave" when the suit was filed in 1988. The priest was forbidden to preach, wear clerical garb, celebrate Mass or present himself as a clergyman. Cipolla appealed to the Vatican Clerical Congregation.

The canon court upheld Wuerl, but in April the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the church's highest court, said that the diocese's interpretation of canon law was faulty and that Wuerl was wrong to base his decision on a psychological exam full of "positivistic fetishes" and "attempts to demolish the Rev. Cipolla."

The diocese has filed for a rehearing, but Communications Director Ronald Lengwin said he was not sure the case would even be considered.

John Conte, Cipolla's attorney, said the priest is now living at an Ohio monastery, waiting on the outcome of the civil suit. The diocese has refused to pay Cipolla's legal fees, and Conte took his case on a pro bono basis. Cipolla continues to minister at prayer groups and churches in dioceses outside Pittsburgh.

"There's nothing we can do to stop him," Lengwin said. "We don't have a diocesan police force that can just go out and enforce canon law. We operate on trust and obedience. We have to hope our people will live by that."
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Title Annotation:Anthony Cipolla
Author:Schreffler, Rebekah
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:May 21, 1993
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