Abuse Survivor Sues Allentown Diocese for Smear Campaign

by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  September 13, 2018   

Juliann Bortz files civil suit against diocese for using private investigators to detract her character

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. (ChurchMilitant.com) - An alleged victim of clerical sex abuse is suing the diocese that launched a smear campaign against her.

Juliann Bortz claims she and a friend were sexually abused by Fr. Francis Fromholzer of the diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania. The alleged abuse happened in the 1960s when Bortz was a student at Allentown Central Catholic High School.

Bortz's testimony was part of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. She came forward with her story of abuse at the hands of Fr. Fromholzer to law enforcement in 2002 (and filed a lawsuit in 2004), following The Boston Globe's explosive Spotlight report on priestly sex abuse.

When the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released in August 2018, Bortz found out that the Allentown diocese had hired people to dig up all kinds of irrelevant information about Bortz and her family to try to discredit Bortz's claims beginning in 2002.

On Wendesday, a lawsuit was filed on Bortz's behalf against the Allentown diocese in a Lehigh County courtroom, accusing the diocese of defamation and causing emotional distress.


For instance, Bortz's daughter was a key witness in a murder case, and the Allentown diocese proposed that Bortz was bringing these claims to law enforcement to try to get on the courtroom's good side — even though her daughter was just a witness, not a suspect.

Bortz and a fellow victim — who has remained anonymous — brought their allegations against Fr. Fromholzer to the diocese in 2002. The diocese dismissed the accusations as non-credible; but suspiciously, Fromholzer offered to retire at that time.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report sharply criticized the Allentown diocese's handling of the case, saying:

In contrast to the efforts to investigate and discredit the victims of child sexual abuse who dared to report their abuse to the Diocese and/or report to civil authorities, the internal documentation regarding the diocesan investigation of Fromholzer is starkly different. The Diocese asked Fromholzer if he did it. Fromholzer said no. Fromholzer then suggested it might be a good time for him to retire.

Bortz recalls that when she tried to tell her parents about the abuse at the time, they didn't believe her and physically punished her for supposedly insulting a priest.

She also claims that priests would be very dismissive when she tried to talk about the sex abuse that she experienced. For example, when she tried to report the abuse to one priest, he interrupted her and said, "No, I don't want to hear it. You go to confession and you pray for him."

When Bortz tired to bring it up with a monsignor, he shut down the conversation and told her, "Don't say the name [of the priest]."

Bortz was one of the victims onstage for the August press conference announcing the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report.


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