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New lawsuit accuses Philadelphia church of sexual abuse

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Attorneys on Monday filed a civil lawsuit against the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, already rocked by a pedophilia scandal, saying it tried to cover up sex crimes by a priest that caused his victim to attempt suicide.

The victim, a man who was 15 when the alleged abuse began in 1995, has been hospitalized 20 times, is emotionally disabled and tried to kill himself in the mid-1990s, said attorney Jeff Anderson. He is now 32.

Some 20 children are suspected of having been abused by the priest, Reverend Robert Brennan, named in the suit, Anderson said.

The filing is the sixth civil suit filed in the scandal surrounding the Archdiocese, all involving abuse of minors.

Three priests, a monsignor and a Catholic school teacher also face criminal charges, including rape, in a priest pedophilia case.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is the sixth largest in the United States with 1.5 million Catholics.

This lawsuit named the church, current archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali, Monsignor William Lynn and Brennan as well as retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who the attorneys said is a central focus of the case.

Bevilacqua is said by the church to be partly senile.

Anderson said at a Philadelphia news conference that the Archdiocese was part of a conspiracy with the Vatican to keep secret allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

The attorney released a statement from the victim's mother, identified as Connie W., saying: "I cannot believe that my beloved Catholic church to which I entrusted my children could do what they did by hiding the dirty mind of this priest."

The suit, similar to the earlier ones, seeks damages in excess of $50,000, which is the threshold in Pennsylvania to get a jury trial. State rules forbid listing damage requests over that amount.

Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the archdiocese of Philadelphia, said the church would have no comment on the lawsuit.

"We don't comment on pending litigation," she said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)

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