Thursday, June 11, 2009

Area Man Sues Episcopal Diocese Over Mom's Estate

An 81-year-man who says he was repeatedly raped by an Episcopal priest more than 60 years ago is now suing the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

When Ralph White (at right in photo) was a teenager at All Saints Parish in Wynnewood, he says, he was sexually abused on a number of occasions by the Rev. Gibson Bell.

Rev. Bell influenced White's mother to have her son placed in a mental institution. Later, White's mother disowned her son and willed her estate to Rev. Bell.

Rev. Bell died in 1979, and the church now owns the property.

Ralph White's attorney is Robert Wade (at left in photo):

"It's our position that All Saints Parish, and then by extension the diocese, has come into possession wrongfully of the property that should have been Mr. White's."

The attorney says White is seeking the property, a medical fund, and a more prominent apology from the diocese.

Rodney Michael is assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania:

"(We express) our sorrow for Mr. White's pain, and hopefully this will be resolved speedily with justice for everyone and we can move on."

And Rev. Michael had questions about motives for the lawsuit:

"One wonders, 60 years on, whether Mr. White is driving this boat, or perhaps his attorney."

Wade, the attorney, says he is doing his work pro bono and does not expect to be paid.

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