NESQUEHONING, Pa. -- The Diocese of Allentown is now responding to a lawsuit filed against it by a former altar boy.
That suit claims a former priest abused him nearly 20 years ago at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Nesquehoning.
The former Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church is named in a lawsuit as being the place where a former priest served when he sexually abused one of the church’s altar boys.
The suit, filed on behalf of a 29-year-old man referred to as "John Doe," alleges that former priest Bruno Tucci sexually molested a boy in the years of 1999 to 2001 when the victim was between the ages of 10 and 12.
Mike Nahaj was also an altar boy who served under Tucci.
“He was just a mean guy. I thought he was mean,” said Nahaj.
Nahaj says Our Lady of Mount Carmel later closed and was turned into a diocesan shrine with only Saturday morning service.
“It's a shame what happened. The church shut down, and I think with all the priests, not just with Father Tucci, that it's a shame what's going on. It was all hidden and that's why the churches are all shutting down,” said Nahaj.
Attorneys for "John Doe" say he never came forward to report the abuse but was prompted to after a scathing grand jury report identified that more than 300 predator priests abused thousands of children in Pennsylvania.
The suit was filed against the Diocese of Allentown's current bishop and bishop emeritus.
“Losing their faith, after you see a lot of stuff on Facebook and public media about all the churches, people say, 'I'll never go to the Catholic Church again,' ” said Nahaj.
The Diocese of Allentown says diocesan records show Tucci was removed from ministry in 2002. He was later dismissed from the priesthood.
The lawsuit also was filed against a treatment center for priests where attorneys say the diocese sent Tucci for abusing other children.
People in Nesquehoning say reports of child abuse against the former priest were well known.
“This has been going on for years. I mean, everybody knew about it,” said Robert Yurchick. “They should have gotten rid of him right away when they suspected him.”
The Diocese of Allentown recently announced the formation of a monetary compensation and reconciliation program to assist victims and survivors.