Father Anthony J. Cipolla
Diocese of Pittsburgh
Law enforcement reports: 1978, 1988
Inpatient evaluation/treatment: 1988-1989
Permanently removed from ministry: 1988
Assigned as Follows:
- 1972-1974 – Parochial Vicar, St. Bernard Church (Mt. Lebanon, PA)
- 1974-1975 – Parochial Vicar, Immaculate Conception (Washington, PA)
- 1975-1975 – Parochial Vicar (St. Philomena, Beaver Falls, PA)
- 1976-1978 – Parochial Vicar (St. Agatha, Bridgeville, PA)
- 1976-1978 – Parochial Vicar (St. Francis Xavier, Pittsburgh, PA)
- 1978-1983 – Parochial Vicar (St. Canice, Knoxville, PA)
- 1983- Parochial Vicar, St. Philip (Crafton, PA)
- 1983-1988 – Chaplin, McGuire Memorial Home for Exceptional Children (New Brighton, PA)
- 1988-2002 – Leave of Absence
- 2002 – Laicized
Summary of Allegations Against Father Anthony J. Cipolla:
According to a multitude of documents subpoenaed from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Father Anthony Cipolla was accused of sexual assault multiple times throughout his career and was constantly being moved to different parishes.
THE 1978 POLICE INVESTIGATION
The first accusations against him occurred in 1978. The victims were brothers, the first of which was 9 years old and the second was 12. Their mother called the Pittsburgh Police Department after they came home crying and finally told her what had occurred, even though they said they had been forced to swear on a Bible that they wouldn’t tell anyone. After the police responded, the first victim was examined at the hospital where sexual lubricant was found in his underwear.
One victim told law enforcement that Cipolla had given him a “physical examination” and required that he take all of his clothes off. He said that he sat on Cipolla’s lap while Cipolla reached around and fondled and squeezed the victim’s penis. The victim also reported that Father Anthony Cipolla had inserted his finger into the victim’s anus. The priest then told him that it would be a sin to tell anyone about what he had done to the victim. He also said that Cipolla had performed similar acts on him around 3 weeks prior and that he told the victim he did the same thing to his brother and “the doctor would charge $60 for this.”
Detectives also interviewed the second brother. He said the abuse occurred in the summer of 1977. Cipolla told the victim’s mother that they would not have to pay for a required physical if she sent the boy to the rectory so he could perform the exam. Cipolla then told the second victim to remove all of his clothing. He took the boy’s blood pressure and listened to his heart with a stethoscope, then inserted his finger into the boy’s rectum. This victim did not tell his parents because he thought it was just part of the physical exam.
A police search warrant led to the discovery of various medical equipment in the church rectory, including a stethoscope, blood pressure gauge, thermometer, and an index card with the names of the victims on it.
When he was eventually confronted with the allegations by police, Cipolla admitted to giving the boys examinations but said that he never told them to take off all of their clothes and he did not insert his finger into the first victim’s anus nor fondle his penis. Instead, he said that he was doing their family a service by performing the physical exams at no cost.
Detectives eventually obtained an arrest warrant for Father Anthony J. Cipolla based upon the boys’ statements.
THE DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH ENGAGED IN A FULL-SCALE CAMPAIGN OF THREATS AND INTIMIDATION UNTIL THE MOTHER OF THE CHILD VICTIMS AGREES TO DROP THE CHARGES.
The charges were dropped after the family was “harassed and threatened by church officials” and Diocese of Pittsburgh attorneys, who told her to “let the church handle it.” The attorneys told the boys’ mother that she would be the one who damaged them if she pursued charges because they were embarrassed, and would only get more embarrassed having to tell “hundreds” of people their story. The Diocese of Pittsburgh attorneys promised the mother that they would “tear [the children’s] testimony apart.” He then asked her why she wanted to “hurt the church.” According to the mother, the boys heard all of these threats from the Diocese of Pittsburgh lawyers and were scared “half to death” to move forward with the prosecution.
In addition, Cipolla himself called their home and showed up at their house to try to speak with one of the victims to get the family to drop the charges. Members of the community also harassed the family. Their car windows were shot out, a car tire was slashed, an apartment window was broken, and the first victim was slapped in the face and told he was “telling lies on a poor blessed priest.” The family also received threatening letters and phone calls. This harassment caused the family to move out of Pennsylvania.
THE TERRIFIED FAMILY RELUCTANTLY AGREES TO DROP THE CHARGES, AND CIPOLLA MOVES ON TO ABUSE MORE CHILDREN AT A NEW PARISH
When the charges were dropped in 1978, over the objection of police investigators, Cipolla was reassigned to St. Canice where he abused another boy. After that, he was assigned as chaplain at a residential facility for children with special needs.
In 1988, the third victim came forward and described being inappropriately touched by Cipolla when he was an altar boy at St. Canice. The priest would put talcum powder all over his body and hug him when they were in the same bed. Initially, the police were not informed but later that same year, the third victim reported the abuse to the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office.
THE DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH SENDS CIPOLLA FOR A PSYCH EVALUATION TO CLEAR HIM FOR A RETURN TO MINISTRY DESPITE THE ALLEGATIONS OF AT LEAST THREE VICTIMS
Bishop Wuerl ordered Cipolla to undergo a psychological examination at St. Luke Institute, a notorious treatment facility for pedophile priests located in Suitland, Maryland. St. Luke’s recommended that Father Anthony J. Cipolla “not have any ministry which involves children.” It was also recommended that Cipolla go to St. John Vianney Hospital, another treatment facility for pedophile priests located in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Cipolla did not comply with this recommendation and instead went to St. Michael’s Institute in New York City, a treatment center of his choice which was not church-approved. St. Michael’s staff wrote a report on Cipolla that completely contradicted everything that St. Luke’s staff had said about him. Cipolla then hired an attorney, who wrote a request to Bishop Wuerl asking that Cipolla be reassigned to another parish.
In 1989, Cipolla changed his mind and agreed to go to St. John Vianney. Three weeks later, he asked if he could instead serve in another diocese in lieu of treatment at SJV. Wuerl told him that he would have to tell the bishop of his new diocese about his history of sexual abuse. Cipolla continued to ask for reassignment, though he still refused to be examined at St. John Vianney. All of his requests to other dioceses were denied. While this was happening, Father Cipolla was presenting himself as a priest in good standing. He did not stop doing this even when Wuerl told him this behavior had to cease.
In 1992, the third victim filed a civil lawsuit against Cipolla.
For some time after, Cipolla continued to act as a priest and hold masses, even after being told to stop multiple times, as he was formally removed from ministry in 1988.
In 1996, Cipolla wrote to Wuerl multiple times asking for his salary. He was also caught acting as a priest in good standing again.
In 2002, Anthony Cipolla was officially dismissed from the priesthood (laicized) by the Pope. Yet he continued to say masses and act like a priest. In 2015, he wrote to Bishop Zubik and asked for his retirement as well as a monthly pension and stipend. In early 2016, he was denied this request as he was no longer a priest.
Cipolla died in 2016.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Pittsburgh now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims. Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or firstname.lastname@example.org today.