ERIE — A federal lawsuit claiming that the Catholic Diocese of Erie covered up clergy sexual abuse has been put on hold until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issues a ruling in a similar case.
U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter stayed the Erie case at the request of the diocese, according to a one-page order docketed in U.S. District Court in Erie on Thursday. The diocese asked for the stay this past Friday.
The state Supreme Court on Tuesday is scheduled to hear arguments in its clergy abuse case, with a ruling to come in several months. Baxter will revisit the Erie case based on the outcome of the state Supreme Court’s ruling, according to her order.
A decision in the Supreme Court case, which involves the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, will determine whether plaintiffs can pursue fraud-related suits over claims that Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania covered up abuse.
The Supreme Court will decide whether to affirm a June 2019 state Superior Court decision that allowed a woman to pursue fraud and cover-up claims against the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The Superior Court said the claims could advance despite the expiration of the statute of limitations for the plaintiff to sue directly over claims of clergy sex abuse.
The 13-county Catholic Diocese of Erie is facing a total of 31 fraud-related suits, including the suit in federal court in Erie. Twenty of the suits were filed in Erie County Court, one each in Venango and McKean counties and eight in Philadelphia, the diocese has said.
In McKean County, plaintiff Ed Rodgers of Bradford is suing over alleged abuse by the Rev. Desmond McGee and the Rev. Michael Amy while he was a student at Bradford Central Christian High School from 1987 to 1990. As of Thursday afternoon, no request had been made in McKean County Court to postpone proceedings in the lawsuit.
The Associated Press has put the number of fraud-related suits against Roman Catholic dioceses statewide at about 150.
The suit in federal court in Erie was originally filed in Erie County Court. The diocese moved it to federal court in Erie in August because the plaintiff lives in another state, Delaware. The Catholic Diocese of Erie would be expected to request stays in the other cases.
(Era Assistant Managing Editor Marcie Schellhammer contributed to this report.)