Woman Sues Church Over Alleged Abuse

CLEVELAND (AP) - A woman filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city's Roman Catholic Diocese, accusing a priest who committed suicide in April of groping and kissing her when she was in grade school.

Regina Scolaro, 30, of San Francisco, also sued the estate of the Rev. Donald Rooney and Rooney's former parish, St. Patrick Catholic Church.

Rooney (pictured, right) shot himself in a suburban parking lot after he was summoned by the bishop to discuss allegations of sexual abuse made by another woman.

In the lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Scolaro alleges that Rooney groped her when she was a student in a Cleveland Catholic school.

Scolaro said Rooney kissed her and rubbed his hand over her breast and back in the St. Patrick's school gymnasium in the 1984-85 school year.

The suit alleges that when she told the dioceses, church officials did not report Rooney to civil authorities and did nothing to punish him or protect other children from abuse.

Scolaro said she sued because the diocese has not been forthcoming about how it responded to allegations about sexual abuse from the priest.

Robert Tayek, a church spokesman, and Bishop Anthony Pilla were in Dallas on Wednesday for a meeting of the nation's bishops and were unavailable for comment, the diocese said.

Scolaro's suit alleges that church officials destroyed documents and covered up allegations against priests.

William Crosby, Scolaro's lawyer, said on Wednesday that besides money, the purpose of the lawsuit is to get the church to change its policy on hiring and retaining priests.

Crosby's co-counsel in the suit is Jeffery Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who has filed two dozen sex abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church in recent months.

Scolaro said Pilla has lied about what the church has done to address the concerns of abuse victims.

"I gave the church ample opportunity to do the right thing, and they have not," she told The Plain Dealer.

Scolaro said in the suit that she suffered emotional distress and psychological injuries because of the sex abuse.

"My faith in God is 100 percent," Scolaro said. "My faith in the Catholic Church -- that's destroyed."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)