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Philadelphia Archdiocese accused of protecting priest in assault case

(Reuters) - A husband and wife have accused a Roman Catholic priest of sexually assaulting her and are suing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for allegedly allowing him to flee to Poland, their attorney said on Wednesday.

The Pennsylvania couple say the abuse took place in 2012 at Our Lady of Czestochowa, a shrine and retreat house run by the Pauline Fathers monastic order in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where the wife had gone for counseling, according to the lawsuit.

The suit was filed on Wednesday in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia but sent back on a technicality, said the couple's attorney, Marci Hamilton. It will be refiled on Thursday, she said.

The woman told church officials about the alleged assault, and they reported it to the Bucks County District Attorney's office, according to the lawsuit.

However, the priest declined to talk to detectives, citing church rules that protect statements made during confessions, and the district attorney's office dropped the case, it said.

The priest, Father Marek Lacki, was removed from the monastery and returned by the Pauline Fathers to Poland to avoid criminal and civil action, the lawsuit charged.

The Bucks County District Attorney's office and a spokesman for the archdiocese could not immediately be reached for comment.

The suit names the archdiocese, which has been plagued by a child sex abuse scandal for years, as well as the Pauline Fathers, Our Lady of Czestochowa shrine and Lacki.

The archdiocese, the order and the retreat "each concealed the knowledge that Lacki had deviate sexual interests" and "failed to implement reasonable safeguards," the lawsuit said.

The couple, who are unidentified, seek $200,000 in damages.

The woman had gone to Lacki for counseling to deal with sexual abuse she had suffered as a child, the lawsuit said.

The priest sexually abused and assaulted her "using physical, intellectual, moral, emotional and psychological force," it said.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Xavier Briand)

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