Father James Somma
Diocese of Pittsburgh
Assigned as follows:
- 7/10/1959 – 4/19/1964: Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Ellwood City, PA)
- 4/20/1964 – 5/04/1964: St. Pius V. (McKeesport, PA)
- 5/05/1964 – 6/21/1984: Archdiocese for Military Services (Washington, DC)
- 6/22/1984 – 5/11/1985: St. Aloysius (Pittsburgh, PA)
- 5/12/1985 – 1/08/1992: Nativity (Pittsburgh, PA)
- 1/08/1992 – 2/07/1994: Holy Trinity (West Mifflin, PA)
- 2/07/1994 – 2/07/2002: Forbes Regional Hospital (Monroeville, PA); St. Michael (Pitcairn, PA)
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father James Somma:
Father James Somma was ordained a priest in 1959 who served in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. According to media reports, in a handwritten letter from September 1986, a priest stated that he spoke with a victim over the telephone. She claimed that a priest sexually abused her for seven years from age 11 until age 18. She provided the priest’s name, but the name was not provided in the initial letter.
The victim stated that she “expressed concern that the priest was now a pastor and could be out there harming other children.” When the priest spoke with bishops on the matter, one simply stated, “until she gives her name, we have no credible evidence.”
Priests subsequently met with Father Somma following another telephone call from the victim in January 1988. They concluded that Somma should not be removed from ministry based on his “strong denial, sterling military career, the passage of time and the victim’s admitted psychiatric treatment.”
A March 1988 evaluation report from St. Luke’s recommended that children and adolescents not have free access to Somma’s home given the present day sensitivity to priests’ relationships with children.
In March 2002, the victim sent a letter advising that she was in counseling, had obtained an attorney, and had filed a lawsuit. Articles from several newspapers do not provide her name but report that Somma forced her to engage in oral sex and sexual intercourse with him until her late teens. The lawsuit was dismissed based upon the statute of limitations.
A Second Victim Comes Forward
A second victim contacted the Diocese of Pittsburgh in a letter from April 2002. An adult male provided the following account of abuse:
“I’m not sure how I met Father James E. Somma, I can only remember that my mom helped him find the house that would later become my prison. When I would help out at his house, which was secluded from town and off the Air Force Base, he would treat me to dinner and movies and give me pocket money for doing chores when I was 13. This went on for the first few months, and then I would start spending the weekends at his place, spending the night there. I thought of him as a “father figure” who praised me, and all was pretty normal the first few months. Then I remember one night when we were coming home from somewhere that we stopped by his office to pick up some videos. I never thought anything of it, then when he played the tape I knew it was an XXX-rated film. I don’t think I said anything, I was thrilled, I mean all young kids dream about this stuff, and here I was getting it with someone I cared about. Someone who I felt knew what was my best interest, someone who has two adopted kids of his own.”
He explained that he watched these XXX movies while lying in bed with Somma, Somma placed his hands down his own pants and talked about masturbation or “wacking off” They fell asleep under the covers and Somma “cuddled him like a teddy bear.”
From 1984 until 1992, Somma had the second victim fly from Ludwig, Illinois to the Pittsburgh area. In the Pittsburgh area, Somma showed him pornography and talked about masturbation. He stated that Somma would explain that when he and his friends were younger, they would ” jerk’ each other off and stand around naked and see who could shoot the farthest load (while erect).”
The second victim stated that he was sexually abused by Somma but not molested.
In April of 2002, the Diocese of Pittsburgh referred the second victim’s allegation to the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.
A note in the Diocesan records was made that stated that there was a conference call with the second victim and that the victim mentioned that he knew of a woman who came forward and Somma said, “they didn’t believe her they won’t believe you.”
Additional Allegations Against Father Somma in 2002
In a March 2002 telephone call and an April 2002 letter to the Diocese of Pittsburgh, a male claimed that Father James Somma had sexual contact with him in 1983 when he was in seventh grade at Nativity, and then on and off from 1984 to 1992 in Pittsburgh. The contact started with tickling and progressed to Somma performing oral sex on the victim and forcing the victim to perform oral sex on Somma. The abuse allegedly happened at least once a week.
Somma took the victim on numerous trips, bought him gifts, even a car. The victim reported that Somma also bought him pornography and offered to pay for a female prostitute. According to the victim, Somma threatened to kill his parents if he told anyone.
In July 2002, the Diocese referred the third victim’s allegation to the Allegheny County
District Attorney’s Office.
Somma died in 2004, but his final burial site is unknown.
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 may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so do not delay in reaching out to us.