Fr. Anthony J. Cipolla – Diocese of Pittsburgh

Father Anthony J. Cipolla

Diocese of Pittsburgh

Fr. Anthony Cipolla Horowitz Law

Ordained: 1972

Death: 2016

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)
  • 1983-1983 – Parochial Vicar, St. Philip (Crafton, PA -7 days)
  • 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 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 confessed to 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 personal lubricant was found in his underwear.

The first victim told the Grand Jury 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 he 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 interviewed the second victim, who was the brother of the first victim. 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.


Later in 1978, 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 got an arrest warrant for Father Anthony J. Cipolla after speaking with the mother of the two victims, who wanted to press charges. The charges were dropped after the family was intimidated and harassed by Diocese attorneys who told her to “let the church handle it.” The attorneys yelled at the victims, telling them that they would have to testify in front of many people and that they would “tear [their] testimony apart.” The Diocese attorney then told the mother that she was just going to embarrass her children if she let them testify. He then asked her why she wanted to “hurt the church.” The prosecutor wanted her to sign an agreement that would expunge the charges against Cipolla but bring the charges back up if he did anything like this again within the next 10 years.


In addition, Cipolla himself called their home and showed up at their house to try to speak with the first victim and 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.


In 2017, the first victim testified before the Grand Jury. He described his abuse, how he felt something was wrong during the exams, and how the abuse affected him later in life. He also recalled how upset his mother had been at the time. The second victim also recounted his abuse in front of the Grand Jury.


When the charges were dropped in 1978, Cipolla was reassigned to St. Canice where he abused another boy. 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. The police were not informed. Later in 1988, the third victim reported the abuse to the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office.


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’s. Three weeks later, he asked if he could serve in another diocese. 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’s. All of his requests 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.


After a back-and-forth with the Vatican, Cipolla was officially ruled as no longer being a priest in good standing. Cipolla continued to act as a priest and hold masses, even after being told to stop multiple times. He was assigned to St. John of Vianney Manor. 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 by the Pope. 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 today.