He was declared dead at the scene of the accident. Cipolla from prolife friends who were part of his Padre Pio group before meeting him face to face for an interview in the early s near the old Pittsburgh Airport. The main topic up for discussion was our mutual nemesis, Bishop Donald W. Before the interview ended, I took the opportunity to ask Father Cipolla about the charges of sexual abuse that had followed him for more than a decade.
He vehemently denied both the pederasty charges filed by a young man named Timothy Bendig, as well as an earlier complaint of sexual abuse, also involving a young, as yet, unnamed boy. If there was any evidence against Fr. Cipolla to support the sex abuse charges, I knew it would eventually find me.
And find me it did, some 24 years later. Father Cipolla stayed in contact with me even after his laicization by Pope John Paul II in — always by phone, always maintaining his innocence regarding the alleged sex abuse allegations. Over the years, as a personal favor, I periodically edited some articles for the Thorns and Roses publication dedicated to Saint Padre Pio in whom I have a great interest.
Our conversations, which were generally short but friendly, always included a recounting of his deteriorating health and the many injustices he suffered under Bishop Wuerl. Then, with the New Year of , the proverbial bomb dropped. I received a phone call from my dear and trusted friend Mary Henry who was living in the Camden Diocese. She was a former home-schooling leader and a veteran of the McHugh Wars promoting sex initiation programs in Catholic schools dating back to the late s.
As heaven would have it, Mrs. Henry had once met Fr. Cipolla when he was trying to get a teaching position with home schoolers at a newly-formed Traditional parish in N. Prophetically, she nixed the Cipolla appointment after a brief luncheon interview conducted at the behest of the pastor. I had forgotten about that meeting except for the fact that the conversation added another red flag to my Cipolla list — Why would a priest accused of pederasty, that is homosexual contact with a young adolescent boy, on more than one occasion, seek out a position which would bring him in immediate contact with young adolescent boys?
Cipolla was a Novus Ordo priest and did not know how to say or pray the Traditional Mass. This particular phone call, however, was to inform me Mrs. Henry had made contact with Diana Thompson now Diana Magnum the mother of not one, but three sons, two of whom she said were sexually abused in by Fr. Henry helped me set up an introductory phone appointment with Diana, after which there was exchange of detailed information, mostly in the form of e-mails, for over a period of more than six months.
The case study you are about to read is based on my own independent research as well as numerous phone interviews with the victims, their families and other interested parties. Cipolla and provides insights into his troubled past that should have served as red flags to four consecutive bishops of the Pittsburgh Diocese from to , but tragically, did not.
It also deals with the Jim Bendig sex abuse settlement claim with the Pittsburgh Diocese in If there was ever a case to support the opening up the window to victims of clerical and other institutional sexual abuse, a window closed by the current statutes of limitations in the state of Pennsylvania, the Thompson Case is it.
Cipolla set his eyes on Diana Thompson and her family, including her three young sons, he must have thought he had died and gone to heaven. All sexual predators, especially homosexual hunters of young boys, seem to be born with a built-in Geiger counter that instinctively seeks out vulnerable parents and their even more vulnerable young male offspring. The Thompsons moved into their brick apartment house on Mexico Street just a few blocks from St. In February of that year, Diana Thompson registered her family with the parish and registered her children for the parish school.
Newell, who had been transferred to the parish in This work and the income she earned from her other job at a nearby print shop helped put food on the table and covered the parochial school tuition for her oldest son, Frank Labiaux, age 12, her daughter Betty Anne Labiaux, age 11, and her youngest son, Bernard Thompson, age 8.
Her nine-year-old son, Thomas Thompson, affectionately known as Tucker, had a learning disability. His attention span was nil. Since second grade he had attended special education classes and was now happily enrolled at the John Morrow Elementary School where he commuted to classes on weekdays by mini-bus.
Cipolla came to St. It was his fifth parish assignment since his ordination in — an unusual record for any young priest. The grooming of the Thompson family started almost immediately after Father Cipolla met Diana and her children. The priest began to visit the Thompson home on a regular basis. The game was on. When Diana asked Fr. Newell about getting her children baptized, Fr. Cipolla stepped in and volunteered to do the baptisms.
Cipolla would call and ask Frank to come to the rectory to help with yard work or gathering and boxing donations of food, toys and clothing for charity which were left at the rectory by parishioners.
Cipolla was planning for St. Tom Thompson was seriously injured, almost killed, in , in a vehicle crash and explosion during special training maneuvers at the Army base-camp in Spartanburg, S. Unfortunately, while his physical injuries healed, his mental disabilities increased. He was never the same man he was before the accident.
Before his military service he was one of the finest printing pressman in the country. But after the accident he was able to work only intermittently despite his desire to stay on the job. By the time the Thompson family settled in Pittsburgh, all semblance of family stability had disappeared. Relations between Tom and his two stepchildren, Frank and Betty Labiaux, by a previous marriage, were never good. By the time of the move, however, he had also lost interest in his own two sons, Tucker and Bernie.
He drank to help him remain calm, but the alcohol interacted with his medications including his anti-psychotic meds, causing fits of paranoia and physical violence. Everyone was afraid of his mean spirit including his own wife and children. Diana and the children were always on pins and needles. In the end, Tom took his own life with a prescription drug overdose, but while that tragedy was still yet in the distant future, another tragedy was waiting on the front stoop of the Thompson apartment in the form of a Catholic priest named Fr.
Cipolla to the Rescue Into this unbelievably untenable set of circumstances rode Father Cipolla like a knight in shining armor on a white horse entering the lists to do battle with Satan. He appeared to be everything a priest should be — understanding, caring, helpful, and holy.
Frank, Tucker and Bernie loved and trusted him. In their eyes, he quickly became a male mentor, a substitute father, for young boys who had never really known their fathers. Diana thought he was the best priest she ever met. From snatches of conversation she had overheard of the phone conversations between the priest and her oldest son she assumed that Fr.
Cipolla was trying to interest Frank in the priesthood. Imagine, her son, a priest! The priesthood had always had a special significance for Diana because her own father was in the seminary only eight months from ordination when he met the other love of his life, and left the seminary to marry her mother. Both her father, an excellent Latinist, and her mother remained devout Catholic all the days of their lives.
At this point in time, the reader may do well to remember that the year was and the thought that a priest would sexually assault a young boy or girl was simply out of the framework of consciousness of most Catholic lay men and women.
Attaching the Bait and Reeling in the Victim Frank Labiaux was just weeks away from his 13th birthday when the first sexual abuse incident occurred. Despite his difficult family situation, Frank was a straight A-student before the abuse.
He was a happy-go-lucky kid, respected authority and was well behaved. His abuse at the hands of Fr. Cipolla would change all that. That day in early August, he was at the rectory for a private religious instruction class with the priest.
Frank was especially excited because Fr. Cipolla had invited him on a three-day trip to visit the Henry Ford Museum at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI with three or four other young boys from the parish. They were to leave on August 15th and return on the 17th. His mother was at home when the call came in from Fr.
Cipolla, who told her that Frank needed a health certificate before he would be permitted to go on the trip to Dearborn. He said all the other boys had already turned in their medical slips Diana told him he should have told her sooner. She explained that she didn't know if she could get an appointment with the clinic before their departure date.
Cipolla quickly offered a solution. Cipolla was being helpful. The young boy obeyed. In Pennsylvania, aggravated indecent assault including anal penetration however slight with a body part, between a minor who is younger than 13 and a defendant of any age is a second degree felony. It also includes minors who are 13, 14, or 15 when the defendant is at least four years older than the victim.
Cipolla told him that he had detected blood in the anus and Frank may want to tell his doctor about that on his next visit. Frank did not tell his mother or anyone else what happened that day. He wanted so very badly to go on the trip to Dearborn. He knew she worked hard for every dollar. And he still trusted the priest. Cipolla reached Dearborn with his charges and checked into the two-story motel, Frank called his mom to tell her they had arrived safely.
He seemed happy and excited. Then the priest informed Frank he would not be sleeping with the other boys but with him. That night when they had both retired to their room and were getting ready for bed, Fr. Cipolla told him that they were going to share the same bed even though there were two beds available. The priest insisted that that Frank was not to wear pajamas or underwear, just a t-shirt.
Nothing happened that first night.