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Pa. court blocks old cases alleging clergy sex abuse

PHILADELPHIA -- An attorney for reported victims of clergy sex abuse plans to appeal a Pennsylvania court ruling that blocks most molestation lawsuits dating back more than two years.

A state appellate panel delivered a setback to the plaintiffs Monday by ruling that 17 adults who contend they were molested by priests as children waited too long to sue.

The three-judge panel of the Superior Court ruled that even if officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia were guilty of ''inexcusable conduct," they were protected by Pennsylvania's strict statute of limitations, which generally requires lawsuits in such cases to be filed within two years.

One of the cases dates back to 1957, and the most recent alleges abuse in 1983.

Richard M. Serbin, who represents several of the alleged victims in the civil cases, said he would take the matter to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The court rejected the plaintiffs' allegations that the church so successfully covered up its role in protecting abusive priests that no one could have suspected the archdiocese of negligence until a wave of sex abuse scandals brought the issue to the public's attention in 2002.

Since then, Catholic officials in Pennsylvania have acknowledged that scores of priests have been accused of abuse over the past few decades. But they have also argued in court that it would be impossible to hold a fair trial now over allegations that are many years old.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has said that its records show 44 priests have been ''credibly" accused of molesting minors since the 1950s.

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