behind God

The memories, anger and betrayal of being sexually abused by Catholic priest Anthony Cipolla in Pittsburgh have been inescapable for three men he targeted as boys




NOVEMBER 27, 2018

Tim Bendig was repeatedly abused by Catholic priest Anthony Cipolla from 1982 to 1986. That came after the Catholic Church declined to remove Cipolla from the priesthood for the abuse of two brothers in the 1970s. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently followed Mr. Bendig as he returned to the vacant rectory and church, St. Canice, where his life changed forever 36 years ago.


“That’s the room,” said a shaken Tim Bendig.

He was pointing at the bedroom on the second floor in the former St. Canice Church rectory where he was first sexually abused 36 years ago by a Catholic priest, Anthony Cipolla.

Mr. Bendig had not expected to be here on a sunny day in September, inside the rectory, and later the crumbling church in Knoxville next door. In both are the places where he was abused at least 15 times in the first of four years of abuse he endured, starting when he was 13 years old.

Tim Bendig in 1982.

A request by a reporter to take photographs of Mr. Bendig had led here because he said he wanted to go back to where his story started, to St. Canice. As he was being photographed outside, and speaking matter-of-factly about his memories, the new owner of the properties arrived and allowed Mr. Bendig to go inside.

There, the ripples of memories turned into torrents of emotion that came pouring out of him in raw, vivid detail, between sobs and tears.

“He molested me here, and behind the altar, and in that cloak room, too,” he said while walking through the old church. “That over there was the confessional; you don’t want to know what happened in there.”

Cipolla, who died in 2016, is one of the more than 90 priests from the Pittsburgh diocese, and more than 300 priests statewide, accused in the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s grand jury report on Catholic clergy sexual abuse in August.

But Cipolla’s case may well be one of the best known.

That’s largely because of Mr. Bendig, who came forward to tell his story in 1988 and sued the Pittsburgh diocese, which then engaged in a battle with Cipolla to remove him from the priesthood, a struggle within the Vatican court system that played out in the media off and on for 14 years.

It is also because of the bravery of two brothers, who told police in 1978 of Cipolla’s abuse of them — allegations that led to Cipolla’s arrest and charges being filed, an incredibly rare ray of sunlight on priest abuse at the time.

Even though the 1978 charges were dropped because of egregious conduct by a county assistant district attorney and an attorney for Cipolla or the diocese, the boys’ willingness to tell their story led eventually — with Mr. Bendig’s case — to the church finally removing Cipolla from the priesthood. Dropping the charges, though, also allowed Cipolla to later abuse Mr. Bendig.

Tim Bendig cries on Sept. 6 as he looks at the bathroom where his abuse began at the rectory of the former St. Canice Catholic Church in Knoxville. Bendig was one of three known sexual abuse victims of Anthony Cipolla that were detailed in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

In the diocese’s official response to its subpoena by the grand jury, it said that Mr. Bendig’s case, and then-Bishop Donald Wuerl’s removal of Cipolla, was one of three crucial steps in the development of its current Policy for the Protection of Children.

It noted that Mr. Wuerl’s successful appeal in 1995 of the Vatican’s reversal of his order to remove Cipolla from the priesthood “was the first time in history that the Signatura [the Vatican’s highest court] reversed its decision. Some believe that this ruling made it easier for bishops to remove priests from ministry.”

Those changes came too late for Cipolla’s victims.

How Cipolla’s abuse cases were handled by church and government agencies stands as an example of their failures, as well as those of schools and communities that might have served as a safety net and support system for clergy abuse victims.

“I will say what I do remember is not one person stuck up for me and my brother,” said Frank Labiaux, the older of two brothers who Cipolla abused in 1977 and 1978 when Cipolla worked at St. Francis Xavier in Brighton Heights.

Unfortunately, as the grand jury report made all too clear, that was the norm in at least 1,000 documented clergy abuse cases across the state, and probably many more that have never been revealed.

From left, Anthony Cipolla and Tim Bendig pose for photographs at the 1985 Padre Pio banquet at the Pittsburgh Hilton. (Pittsburgh Catholic photo)

From one church to another

Anthony Joseph Cipolla was born Aug. 29, 1943, in Rochester, Pa. He was a twin to a sister, Anita, and had one other brother and two sisters who were raised on a small farm in Hopewell, Beaver County.

His father, Ambrose, worked at J&L Steel in Aliquippa and had a number of side businesses, from a corner store to a TV repair shop and a bar, the Gringo Inn. He died in 1978, when he was 70, just three months before his son was first accused of molesting a boy.

A timeline of abuse

Cipolla’s mother, Albina, was a homemaker active in her church and community groups, including the Padre Pio Prayer Group, an organization related to one her son would start in 1979 to support sainthood for Padre Pio, an Italian friar said to have visible stigmata on his hands. Albina Cipollo was 67 when she died in 1984.

Raised in a devout Catholic family, Cipolla wanted to be a missionary priest — not a parish priest — from an early age, a family member who asked not to be named said. When he was in 10th grade, Cipolla left home to attend a junior seminary in Texas run by a missionary order.

Homesick and short on cash, however, Cipolla returned home, beginning a pattern that would continue for the next 16 years, as he entered and left seven theological institutions around the country. He was finally ordained a priest in Pittsburgh in 1972, when he was 29.

Based on my experience, [a priest with many short-term assignments] is evidence of a pedophile priest being shuffled from parish to parish to cover up his past.

He began a similar pattern of short-term assignments at Catholic churches in the region, starting at St. Bernard in Mt. Lebanon, where he stayed for just two years. Over the next nine years he would work at six more churches in the Pittsburgh Diocese, with one stint lasting just one week.

He was a short, slight man, at 5 feet 2 inches and about 120 pounds, with deep brown eyes and black hair, and several people who knew him described him as “charismatic” and endearing when he wanted to be, but also prickly and arrogant as well.

In all of his seven church assignments, despite his growing experience, he was always a parochial vicar, never the lead parish priest.

“Based on my experience, [a priest with many short-term assignments] is evidence of a pedophile priest being shuffled from parish to parish to cover up his past,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a well-known Boston attorney who is representing Mr. Labiaux and his brother, Tucker Thompson. His firm has represented more than 1,000 victims of clergy sexual abuse.

It was at Cipolla’s fifth church assignment, at St. Francis Xavier in Brighton Heights — now known as Risen Lord Church, after parish consolidations — that Cipolla met Diane Mangum’s sons in 1977.



A dream becomes a nightmare

After leaving her second husband — who was battling depression and post-traumatic stress disorder from his service during the Vietnam War — Mrs. Mangum thought she had found a perfect home for her family.

It was an apartment in a small, brick building on Mexico Street in Brighton Heights, just a short, several-block walk to St. Francis Xavier’s Catholic School along California Avenue.

Diane Mangum’s children in 1972, from left, Bernie, 3; Tucker, 4; Betty, 6; and Frank, 7.

“I’d always wanted to send my kids to Catholic school, and now I had the chance,” said Mrs. Mangum, now 72, remarried and living in Florida, not far from her three surviving children (her son Bernie was struck and killed by a truck while helping a homeless man get a meal in 2009).

Though her work at a print shop was barely enough to support her family, the parish priest, the Rev. Joseph Newell, gave scholarships to three of her kids in exchange for her work cleaning at the school three mornings a week.

Within a few months, the location seemed even better when Cipolla took an interest in her oldest child, Frank Labiaux, then 12, offering him private religious classes.

“It seemed like a dream come true, this priest helping your son,” Mrs. Mangum said. “It turned into a nightmare.”

Mr. Labiaux said he felt the same way when he met Cipolla: “I went to Father Cipolla and I was baptized, went to confirmation, first holy communion. He seemed like a great person, he really, really did.”

At the time, Mr. Labiaux was a stellar student, trusting, outgoing and quick to make friends in his new neighborhood. That all changed not long after the summer of 1977 began.

Cipolla’s ruse to get Mr. Labiaux alone the first time was to tell his mother he needed a physical exam so he could go on a church trip to Dearborn, Mich., with other boys in August.


To tell you the God’s honest truth, at one point most of my family wondered if I’d ever see 18.

Cipolla offered to do it himself, noting he was a “missionary priest” who had training in exams. Mr. Labiaux, who was 12, went to the rectory, a home located along California Avenue next to the church. Cipolla had a stethoscope, thermometer and blood pressure gauge to make it all look official, and then had Mr. Labiaux come into his rectory bedroom and strip naked.

Frank Labiaux in 1977.

First he checked his blood pressure and his heart. Cipolla then told Mr. Labiaux to bend over and he inserted a lubricated finger in his rectum, telling him “he was just checking to see if there was anything in there,” according to the grand jury report.

When Mr. Labiaux didn’t tell anyone about what happened, Cipolla further abused him on the Dearborn trip, and after that, until Mr. Labiaux began refusing to go to the rectory in August.

The change in Mr. Labiaux’s personality was immediate. He began lashing out at authority, committed some vandalism at another church, and finally asked his mother if he could go live in Florida with his grandparents. She agreed and he left, never telling anyone what happened.

“I became very untrusting, anti-establishment, anti-authority, kind of withdrawn into my own space, my own world,” he said during an interview in his mother’s home in Florida in September. “To tell you the God’s honest truth, at one point most of my family wondered if I’d ever see 18. That’s how bad I was.

“I’m mad at myself mostly for letting it happen. And I got to a point in my life where I was just angry about everything and sometimes for absolutely nothing, just because.”

Mrs. Mangum said her son is also riddled with guilt for not speaking up “because if he had said something [Cipolla] would never have been with” his younger brother, Tucker Thompson.

‘Every trick in the book’

In the summer of 1978, Cipolla, apparently convinced Mr. Labiaux was going to stay silent, used the same ruse to get to his younger brother.

Cipolla told Mr. Thompson, who was then 9, that he needed to give him an exam. He got out his medical equipment and then not only put a finger in his rectum, but masturbated him as he sat on Cipolla’s bed in his rectory bedroom. The second time Mr. Thompson was abused, on July 25, 1978, he came home with puffy eyes from crying.

The former rectory, left foreground, for the former St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Brighton Heights.

Mr. Thompson would not say why he was upset, because, he explained, Cipolla told him “it would be a sin if he told anyone” and made him sign a paper in the Bible agreeing to stay silent.

“He used every trick in the book on my kids,” Mrs. Mangum said.

When Mr. Thompson finally did tell her what happened, Mrs. Mangum’s first call was to the parish priest, Newell, who died in 2007.

“He told me he was sorry and he was going to have to talk to Father Cipolla about that,” she recalled. “He acted like he didn’t believe me one single bit. I got so angry then and I called the [Pittsburgh] police.”

The responding police officers took the allegation seriously and called in detectives, who drove Mr. Thompson to Allegheny General Hospital to be evaluated. Emergency staff found traces of lubricant on both Mr. Thompson’s underpants and his rectum.

They obtained a search warrant for Cipolla and served it on the rectory that same night, finding the medical equipment the boys described and index cards with their names.

Diane Mangum, mother of Frank Labiaux and Tucker Thompson, right.



In an interview with the detectives, according to the grand jury report, Cipolla admitted he “examined” both boys but did it “because they had related that they were a bit ill and he felt he was being of service for the family.”

He denied putting a finger in their rectum or touching their penis. But when asked why they were naked during the exams, he said that when he entered the room “that is the way they were.”

Cipolla was allowed to turn himself in and was arrested at the station and charged with indecent assault and corruption of a minor.

After that, the family had to endure a different kind of abuse. At first it was late-night phone calls, comments on the street and letters claiming the family was maligning the church. But then someone slashed a car tire, the rear window of their truck was shot out, and a rock was thrown through the front window of their home.

1978 police report charging Anthony Cipolla with the molestation of Tucker Thompson.

Once, when Mr. Thompson went to the corner grocery store for milk, the store’s elderly owner yelled at him, “Why would you say these things about this blessed priest!?” before slapping Mr. Thompson, leaving a mark across his cheek.

Kids in the neighborhood who had been friendly were ruthless, some chanting “Child got molested! Child got molested!” Mr. Thompson recalled.

Cipolla also tried to confront Mr. Thompson, coming to the home several times, though Mrs. Mangum would not let him speak to her son.

But the most onerous harassment came from an even loftier figure in the church.

The day after Cipolla’s arrest, Mrs. Mangum got the first of three phone calls from then-Bishop Vincent Leonard. He gave her his personal phone number at his residence so she could call him back if she wanted.

“In that first call, he asked me what happened, and then he told me Father Cipolla needed to see a psychiatrist and the Catholic church has the best psychiatrist and they can cure him,” she recalled.

“The second time, he told me what he believed happened to Father Cipolla was that he was doing confessions and the evil [from listening to those confessions] got into him somehow, like he was possessed,” she said.

In the third call, the day before Cipolla’s arraignment, he just flat-out asked her to drop the charges, something she said she thought about “because he was really laying it on me.”

‘The fix was in’

When the story of what happened to Mr. Thompson made its way to Mr. Labiaux in Florida, he finally opened up, first, to his grandparents and then his mother, about what Cipolla did to him a year earlier.

He flew back to Pittsburgh to tell police the story, and police decided to include him in the case, too, said former Pittsburgh police detective Warren Broz.

“He sounded truthful [too] because you didn’t think a young kid could make things up like that, about a stethoscope” and the other medical equipment they found, Mr. Broz, now 77, retired and still living in the city, said in an interview.

A month after Cipolla’s arrest, he faced an arraignment on Aug. 28, 1978, in Chief District Magistrate Stephen Laffey’s courtroom in Downtown. (Laffey died of Legionnaires’ disease in December 1978.)

On the day of the arraignment, Mrs. Mangum said, she and her sons were shown to a back room. In the room was an assistant district attorney and an attorney representing either Cipolla, the diocese, or both. (The diocese first said in 1995 that it never sent an attorney to represent Cipolla at that hearing, and it reiterated that statement to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in September.)


The first thing I notice is there are three or four suits at the defense table. ... The fix was in.

Though neither of her sons has good memories of that day other than being scared and their mom crying, Mrs. Mangum has repeatedly told the same story — including to the grand jury — of what happened in that room that day.

She said as the assistant district attorney silently watched, the private attorney harshly interrogated the boys, tripping them up over their answers, rattling them so much they were both crying.

“He was bullying my kids,” Mrs. Mangum said. “He kept saying, ‘The next time you’ll have to say this, there’ll be 100 people in the room listening. Do you want to do that?’ They were scared and I was scared for them.”

After she was told that if she signed a paper dropping the charges, the district attorney’s office could still refile charges if Cipolla did it again in the next 10 years, Mrs. Mangum agreed.

“I wish I had said no,” she said. “Then Tim Bendig wouldn’t have met Cipolla, and maybe some other kids, too.”

That compounds the guilt she already felt for trusting Cipolla with her sons in the first place.

“By sending them to Father Cipolla, I put them in harm’s way,” she said. “And that has weighed on me ever since.”

Mr. Broz and his partner, Detective Leo Marchetti, who died in 2012, walked into the courtroom in 1978 expecting to be called to testify about the boys’ case.

Frank Labiaux, left, and his brother, Tucker Thompson pose for a portrait Sept. 26 in Melbourne, Fla. Mr. Labiaux and Mr. Thompson were victims of Anthony Cipolla whose sexual abuse allegations were detailed in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

“The first thing I notice is there are three or four suits at the defense table,” said Mr. Broz, noting it was very unusual to see so many defense attorneys working with one defendant in magistrate court. “I looked at my partner and we both knew what was happening.”

“The fix was in,” he said.

Before he died in September at 83, Bob Colville, who was the Allegheny County district attorney from 1976 to 1998, said in an interview that he had no knowledge of any of his assistant DAs in 1978 allowing a defense attorney to berate those boys.

If he had known, he said: “I would have gotten [the assistant DA] the hell out of there. That’s not doing your job. It would have been inappropriate.”

Claire Capristo, who in 1978 oversaw the assistant DAs in magistrate court, also said she did not know who the assistant DA on the case would have been. Holding a meeting in a room before an arraignment like Mrs. Mangum described “In court, or out of court, that isn’t how an ADA should work.”

Persuading Mrs. Mangum to drop the charges did not end the harassment for her family.

“It was awful,” she said. “As soon as I could, we got out of Pittsburgh. I found a place to stay in Cleveland.”

They later moved to Virginia and then Florida, she said, because: “I wanted to do everything I could to help the boys forget about it.”

That would prove to be impossible.

“I’ve spent the better part of the last 40 years trying to forget about it,” Mr. Labiaux said.

An aerial view of the former St. Canice in Knoxville, with the yellow-brick rectory to the right.

The third victim

Within a few months of the case being thrown out, Cipolla was transferred to a new church, St. Canice in Knoxville, another working-class neighborhood full of kids.

He had been there about 3½ years when Tim Bendig, one brother and two sisters, and their mother, Rita Hicky, moved into a home located across the alley behind the church. Their father was rarely around.

One day in the spring of 1982, when he was 12 and in seventh grade, Mr. Bendig knocked on the door of the rectory to ask a question about Jesus. He was referred to Cipolla.

Cipolla answered his question, and then began asking Mr. Bendig about his family. He told Mr. Bendig he would make a good altar boy, which thrilled Mr. Bendig.

“My mother couldn’t believe her good fortune, having this priest take an interest in her son and help him get to be an altar boy,” Mr. Bendig said.

Like Mrs. Mangum, “She regretted thinking that the rest of her life,” Mr. Bendig said of his mother, who died in 2015.

A couple of weeks later, Cipolla asked Mr. Bendig to work as an altar boy for a special Mass at Cipolla’s nonprofit group, Padre Pio Spiritual Refuge. When Mr. Bendig went to the rectory that day in May 1982, Cipolla asked him if he wanted to help him wash his car. Mr. Bendig said sure, why not?

But Cipolla purposely sprayed him with a hose, and then told him that “now that you got your clothes wet washing the car, you need to go and you need to jump in the shower so you’re clean for God.”

Tim Bendig surveys the abandoned sanctuary of the former St. Canice Catholic Church where he was abused by Anthony Cipolla.

After he got out of the shower, Cipolla brought Mr. Bendig into his bedroom, had him sit on the bed, and proceeded to put Old Spice powder all over him, including rubbing it all over his penis and anus.

Like Mr. Labiaux, Mr. Bendig is haunted by the moment he first agreed to do what Cipolla asked.

“I wish there was an answer that I could give you today to why I went into that shower,” he said. “Like, what if I just said no? What if that first time I said no? Would it all have ended?”

It was the first of more than 100 times over the next four years that Cipolla would abuse Mr. Bendig.

Like Mr. Labiaux and Mr. Thompson, the impact of the abuse on Mr. Bendig’s personality was immediate. But the adults in his life never dug deep enough to understand why.

“The home and school is concerned about his withdrawing behavior, lack of achievement and his aspiration levels,” read a psychological evaluation of Mr. Bendig in December 1982, by Pittsburgh Public Schools psychologist Philip Kampert.

While noting that Mr. Bendig said he wanted to be a priest — but never connecting the negative change in his personality with meeting Cipolla — the evaluation recommended that with “counseling from the family and priest, a more realistic aspiration level can be created.”

1982 psychological evaluation of Tim Bendig by a Pittsburgh Public Schools psychologist.

A year after Mr. Bendig’s evaluation, in December 1983, Cipolla was transferred to be chaplain at the McGuire Memorial Home for Exceptional Children, a New Brighton nonprofit run by the diocese and the Felician Sisters that cares for children with physical and developmental disabilities.

Mr. Bendig began spending even more time with Cipolla in New Brighton, located about an hour from Mr. Bendig’s home in Knoxville.

“He’d pull me out of class and take me with him wherever he was going,” Mr. Bendig said. “I’d stay at McGuire with him for days at a time.”

And neither his mother nor his teachers objected?

“What were they going to say? He was a priest. They all thought this was a good thing,” Mr. Bendig said.

Like Mr. Labiaux and Mr. Thompson, he said he never told anyone about the abuse because of Cipolla’s threats that he would be violating a godly trust with Cipolla.

Mr. Bendig said many times over those years, he remembers staring straight at the adults in his life, wishing “they would read my mind so they would know what he’s doing to me.”

When he turned 16, Mr. Bendig, feeling more confident, stopped agreeing to stay with Cipolla, though they still talked.

“It really stopped because I started saying, ‘No,’ ” he said. “As I started to get older, I wanted my own path.”

The former St. Canice Church in Knoxville was closed in 2005.

‘Go get an attorney’

Mr. Bendig graduated from high school and, with Cipolla’s help, was admitted to St. Paul Seminary in Crafton in the fall of 1987 to train to be a priest.

While at St. Paul, Mr. Bendig found other men, like him, who were gay, and he began for the first time exploring his homosexuality. That included trips to gay bars in Pittsburgh, where, one night, he spotted his own parish priest, and he had an epiphany.

“I remember thinking, ‘My God, am I going to be a predator too?’ ” he said.

Worried, he asked the seminary’s spiritual director to talk about his concerns with what he was encountering at St. Paul. The spiritual director was David Zubik, now the diocese’s bishop.

Mr. Bendig believes other seminarians overheard their conversation in a hallway and his fellow seminarians ostracized him. He withdrew in November 1987. Over the next few months, his frustration and anxiety built and he decided, on June 22, 1988, to finally tell the diocese about Cipolla’s abuse.



Though the diocese concluded Mr. Bendig’s story was “without foundation and the matter be dropped,” it did initially agree to pay for some counseling for Mr. Bendig. But during the third session, Mr. Bendig said his therapist was told he could not see him anymore. He then gave Mr. Bendig a piece of advice: “Go get an attorney.”

Mr. Bendig hired several attorneys and filed a civil suit against Cipolla and the diocese on Nov. 18, 1988 — just 17 days after Cipolla was placed on leave by Bishop Donald Wuerl, who had only recently been appointed to that position.

Having changed the diocese's view of Mr. Bendig’s allegations, Bishop Wuerl began the long process of removing Cipolla from the priesthood, an action the church had rarely taken.

Mr. Bendig also took his story to the Beaver County District Attorney’s office on Dec. 16, 1988, where he was interviewed by Detective Andrew Gall and Assistant DA William Hare. But, again, Cipolla would escape criminal prosecution.

Though neither Mr. Hare nor his boss, then-Beaver County DA Theresa Dukovich, recall the case, Mr. Gall does, vividly. That was, in part, because priest abuse cases were so rare, he said.

“Bill [Hare] and I both felt he was a credible victim,” said Mr. Gall, now head of detectives for the DA’s office.

I remember thinking, ‘My God, am I going to be a predator, too?’

The problem Beaver County officials ran into, Mr. Gall said, was that Mr. Bendig had just turned 20 the month before he reported the abuse. If he had come in even a day before his birthday, the statute of limitations then would have been extended back to the time the abuse occurred between 1982 and 1986.

But because he was 20, the statute of limitations on indecent assault was just two years, and there had been no abuse for over four years.

“Things like what happened to Mr. Bendig are what led to changes in the sexual assault statutes” extending the statute of limitations, Mr. Gall said.

That explanation, however, does not agree with a letter Mr. Hare sent Cipolla’s attorney, Joseph Liberati, in March 1989. In it, he explained that Cipolla could not be charged because Mr. Bendig was over 18 at the time of the offenses — which was not accurate — and that “No corroborating evidence was found.” There is no mention of the statute of limitations in the letter.

The 1988 letter from the Beaver County district attorney to Mr. Bendig's attorney explaining why there was "no basis for criminal prosecution" of Cipolla

Mr. Gall said he can’t explain the letter because the files for the case — and all those from that era — were destroyed by the county to save money on storage fees three years ago. Mr. Liberati, 80, and still living in Monaca, said he had no memory of the case.

Although the criminal case ended with a whimper, the civil suit Mr. Bendig filed became a long, drawn-out war over the next five years.

In court filings, the diocese’s lead attorney, John Kunz, initially denied the diocese knew anything of Cipolla’s prior abuse, then blamed Mr. Bendig for engaging “in conduct and action for which he assumed the risk and/or for which he was contributorily negligent.”

During Mr. Bendig’s deposition in 1992, an attorney for the diocese asked a series of questions of Mr. Bendig that seemed to imply that he was responsible for the abuse he suffered.

Already enduring the stress of his abuse, Mr. Bendig “lost it,” and tried to kill himself. He jumped up from his seat in an office high up in One Oxford Center, and tried to throw himself through a window.

“The window was fortunately too thick, and I just bounced off and fell to the ground in the room,” Mr. Bendig said. “I was that upset.”

The critical point in the case came in 1992 when Mr. Bendig’s new civil attorney, Doug Yauger, tracked down Mrs. Mangum and her sons in Florida and deposed them about what had happened, and what the church knew, in 1977 and 1978 about Cipolla.

“Within a few months we were talking settlement,” said Mr. Yauger, who now manages a state wine and liquor store.

Mr. Bendig, after agreeing to sign a non-disclosure agreement that was only recently rescinded by the diocese, got “nearly a million dollars” — a staggering amount at the time — from the diocese’s insurance company, he said. A third of it went to his attorneys. But the money helped him get counseling and helped stabilize his life financially, even though he blew some of it on an ill-thought-out country and western bar.

He now runs an agency that works with celebrities, helping connect them with shows like comic and sci-fi conventions all over the country and the world.

“My business is good,” he said. “But I’m still putting my life back together.”

The rectory of St. Canice in Knoxville, where Anthony Cipolla first abused Tim Bendig.

An obligation to tell

The day Mr. Bendig visited St. Canice “was like being taken back to a dungeon,” he said.

“This is the first time I’ve faced it,” he said. “This is closure for me.”

Although Mr. Bendig was not invited to testify before the state grand jury, Mr. Labiaux and Mr. Thompson were. And while revisiting the horror of their youth is painful, both men said they felt they had an obligation to tell their story.

“The biggest reason why I participated in that, and I spoke to my mother about it, and I said: If it will protect one child, I’m all in. That was my only reason” for talking to the grand jury, said Mr. Labiaux, now 54 and a carpenter.

When Cipolla died of a heart attack right before the car he was driving struck a tree in 2016, according to the Trumbull County (Ohio) Medical Examiner’s Office, Mr. Bendig said he took no solace in his death.

“I wished him no ill will,” he said. “I do wish he would have admitted what he did.”

Cipolla’s death also brought no comfort to Mr. Labiaux or Mr. Thompson, even though both of them trace their lifelong difficulties in relationships and life back to his abuse.

“I never hated people like that, you know what I mean?” Mr. Thompson, now 50 and working in construction, said. “And I have prayed for that man. I was like, good Lord… I don’t know if that is forgivable or not. But, you know, we’re all sinners.”

Like his brother, Mr. Labiaux said he has prayed for Cipolla.

“Oftentimes when I pray, I pray that they get everything they deserve. That’s not on the upside or the downside, I just pray that they get everything that they deserve,” he said. “And I guess he did.”

Sean D. Hamill: shamill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2579 or Twitter: @SeanDHamill


Sean D. Hamill
Andrew Rush
Ben Howard
Laura Malt Schneiderman
Ben Howard

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