PITTSBURGH – A Roman Catholic priest is suing his own diocese, saying he was sexually abused as a teen by a now-deceased priest who taught at his high school.
The Rev. John Nesbella (search) was placed on a leave of absence Friday after filing the lawsuit this week, alleging he was abused more than 25 years ago at a rectory operated by the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, the diocese said in a statement.
Nesbella alleges he was abused by the Rev. Martin Brady (search), his teacher at Bishop Carroll High School in Ebensburg.
His attorney, Richard Serbin, declined to elaborate on his client's claims.
"At this point, I'm just going to allow the diocese to put those facts out there," Serbin said. "What is in there (the statement) is accurate."
Nesbella was 16 at the time of the alleged abuse.
The lawsuit names as defendants the diocese, Bishop Joseph Adamec (search) and former Bishop James Hogan. Brady died March 19, 2003.
"Having one of our priests be a litigant against his own diocesan church and diocesan bishop presents us with a number of difficulties," Adamec said in the statement. He said it could be difficult for the diocese to conduct a thorough investigation and for Nesbella to be an effective minister.
"The fact that the accused is deceased makes it next to impossible to confirm the allegation," Adamec said.
Clergy abuse claims by active or former priests are unusual but not unprecedented, according to David Clohessy, executive director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
SNAP knows of several dozen priests who say they were sexually abused by priests as children, but it is rare for those victims to sue, Clohessy said.
"It takes a lot of courage for an abuse victim to come forward, and I think that's even harder to do when you're a priest," Serbin said.