Sisters speak out on abuse by priest named in grand jury report
ALTOONA - Within a small office building in Altoona and tucked away in the back office of defense attorney Richard Serbin, a poster board stands out.
The names "Renee" and "Cheryl" are written above a compilation of pictures of two young children. Also photographed, Father Charles Bodziak, a man the two now-women are accusing of sexual abuse.
"That's what we're dealing with, little kids," said Serbin during a news conference to announce two new lawsuits against the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Bodziak, Bishop Joseph Adamec and the estate of deceased Bishop James Hogan.
Those kids in the photographs are no longer children. They are Renee Rice and Cheryl Haun, two sisters now in their late 40s.
Both came forward Tuesday morning in front of a handful of reporters to share bits of their story and alleged abuse that happened nearly four decades ago.
"It angers me that Father Bodziak will never have jail time," said Haun. "and (priests who abuse children) should. We've had to live with this our whole lives, and they just get to walk away."
Inside the complaints are allegations of years of sexual abuse. According to the lawsuits, the abuse happened for years after Haun and Rice met Bodziak at St. Leo's Church in Altoona during the 1970s.
Bodziak reportedly assaulted one of the women during her communion party. The other when she was 8 years old.
"Tragically, they were repeatedly sexually molested beginning between the ages of 7 and 9 over a period of several years," said Serbin.
Serbin says Bodziak provided alcohol to the girls to assist with sexual molestation.
"Stop allowing children to be raped. Stop allowing children to be sodomized," Serbin said in a call to the diocese to end sexual abuse.
But Serbin's lawsuits are ones not currently within the guidelines of the current law.
The current statute of limitations law allows victims of child sex abuse to bring civil lawsuits until they were 30 years old. However, Serbin told 6 News Investigates that his clients' cases can be brought forward and will fall within an exception for an extension to the law - fraud.
"I have counts of fraud and withholding of pertinent information only known to the diocese," Serbin said.
6 News Investigates reached out to the diocese this afternoon. Tony DeGol, a spokesperson for the religious institution, declined an interview on-camera but provided us with this statement:
"Bishop Bartchak placed Father Bodziak on leave in January as a precautionary measure while the diocese re-examines an allegation of sexual misconduct involving minors against Father Bodziak dating back more than 30 years. His status has not changed, and the diocese does not discuss any pending or current litigation."
"I just think it's really sad that nobody will do anything to get these people out of the system," said Rice.
Serbin also attached a letter from Bishop Adamec, a defendant in the suit, who wrote in response to one of the victims who initially came forward in July 2006.
His attorney said they have not seen the action and did not provide addition comment.
Judy Jones, associate director for SNAP Midwest, released a statement after the filing of the two lawsuits:
"We are saddened that these two girls were sexually abused by Fr. Charles Bodziak, but hopefully they are feeling a sense of relief for taking action to expose the truth and therefore protect others.
"Let's hope that any others who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by Fr. Charles Bodziak, will find the courage to come forward and contact law enforcement no matter how long ago it happened.
"Bodziak worked in many parishes within the Altoona-Johnstown diocese. They are St. Mary's Church, Nanty Glo, PA , St. Joseph's Church, Renovo, PA, St. Agnes Church, Lock Haven, PA, St. Leo's Church, Altoona, PA, St. Leo's Church, Altoona, PA ,Christ the King and St. Stanislaus Kostka, Barnesboro, PA, Sacred Heart Church and St. John the Baptist, Central City St. Agnes Church, Cassandm, PA and St. Bartholomew Church, Wilmore, PA, St. Michael's Church, St. Michael, PA
"Silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others."