May 03, 2005

Priest, diocese at odds


Growing up in Lilly, John Nesbella never expected to become a priest.

Just the opposite.

"In my high school years, I wasn't Mr. Holy Roller by any means," he admits.

"In the 1970s I did a lot of partying, and I was even in jail once on a minor drug charge. I was mostly away from the church in my 20s," he said in an interview.

But after college and a stint in the military, when he was 33, everything changed.

"I had a calling," he said, "a very clear calling, to become a priest."

And so, at an age when most are partway up the career ladder, Nesbella started at the bottom rung, in seminary.

It was there that he encountered homosexuality among priests, he said, and where his problem with the Roman Catholic hierarchy began.

"It was very open. It was scandalous," he said. "I thought maybe it's just that way here, but I later found it was the church's

No. 1 problem, but also the No. 1 thing that you do not speak against."

Now - at age 42 and after speaking out loudly - Nesbella is out in the cold.

After filing a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, claiming he was sexually abused at the age of 16 by a priest who is now dead, Nesbella on Feb. 18 was placed on a leave of absence and may not publicly perform any priestly duties.

Posted by kshaw at May 3, 2005 12:29 PM