comscore Grand jury: 2 bishops hid sex abuse of hundreds of children | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

Grand jury: 2 bishops hid sex abuse of hundreds of children

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane spoke about the 147-page report on sexual abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese that was released at a news conference today in Altoona, Pa. Kane said none of the alleged criminal acts can be prosecuted because some abusers have died, statutes of limitations have run their course and victims are too traumatized to testify.

ALTOONA, Pa. » Two Catholic bishops who led a small Pennsylvania diocese helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by more than 50 priests and other religious leaders over a 40-year period, according to a grand jury report that portrays the church as holding such sway over law enforcement that it helped select a police chief.

The 147-page report issued today on sexual abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, home to nearly 100,000 Roman Catholics, was based partly on evidence from a secret diocesan archive opened through a search warrant over the summer.

In announcing the findings, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said the diocese’s two previous bishops “placed their desire to avoid public scandal over the well-being of children.”

No criminal charges are being filed in the case because some abusers have died, the statute of limitations has expired, or victims are too traumatized to testify, she said.

Of the victims, Kane said: “Their souls were killed as children. They weren’t out playing baseball; they were trying to avoid priests.”

The report was especially critical of Bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec. Hogan, who headed the diocese from 1966 to 1986, died in 2005. Adamec, who succeeded him, retired in 2011.

Adamec cited possible self-incrimination in refusing to testify before the grand jury. But in a court filing, his attorney said the accusations against the 80-year-old Adamec are unfounded. He required 14 priests accused under his watch to undergo psychiatric evaluation, the filing said. Nine of them were suspended or removed from ministry, and the five who were reinstated never re-offended, his attorney wrote.

“Bishop Adamec’s handling of abuse allegations has no similarity to other clergy abuse scandals,” his attorney wrote.

The current bishop, Mark Bartchak, is not accused of any wrongdoing. He recently suspended a few priests named as alleged abusers in the report, though the grand jury said it remains “concerned the purge of predators is taking too long.”

In a statement, Bartchak said: “I deeply regret any harm that has come to children.”

The clergy sex abuse crisis erupted in 2002, when The Boston Globe reported that the Boston Archdiocese had transferred child-molesting priests from parish to parish to protect them. Similar scandals involving hundreds of offenders and victims have since erupted across the U.S. and beyond.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops estimates that American dioceses have paid nearly $4 billion since 1950 to settle claims with victims.

The Altoona-Johnstown report said that the abuse was committed in such places as campsites, confessionals, an orphanage and the cathedral, and that Hogan covered up allegations by transferring offending priests, including one who was sent to a school for boys.

One diocesan official under Hogan, Monsignor Philip Saylor, told the grand jury that church officials held such clout in the eight-county diocese that “the police and civil authorities would often defer to the diocese” when priests were accused of abuse, the report said. Saylor told the grand jury that the mayors of Altoona and Johnstown even consulted him on their choices for police chief in the 1980s.

“Politicians of Blair County were afraid of Monsignor Saylor, and he apparently persuaded the mayor to appoint me as the chief of police,” former Altoona Police Chief Peter Starr testified.

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Catholic canon lawyer turned advocate for victims, said it was common for law enforcement in heavily Catholic areas to defer to the church in handling accusations against priests.

He said the number of victims and accused priests in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, which ranks in the bottom half of the list of the nearly 200 U.S. dioceses by Catholic population, did not surprise him: “I’ve seen dioceses the same size or smaller where you have significant numbers of perpetrators and victims.”

The report said Adamec or his staff threatened some alleged victims with excommunication and generally worked harder to hide or settle allegations of abuse than to discipline the priests accused.

“The diocese will not apologize or take responsibility for its dark history,” the report said.

In a practice seen in other dioceses, the bishop created a “payout chart” to help guide how much victims would receive from the church, the report said. Victims fondled over their clothes were to be paid $10,000 to $25,000; fondled under their clothes or subjected to masturbation, $15,000 to $40,000; subjected to forced oral sex, $25,000 to $75,000; subjected to forced sodomy or intercourse, $50,000 to $175,000.

Clergy abuse scandals are not new to the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

The latest investigation began when Kane’s office was asked to review the handling of abuse allegations at Bishop McCort Catholic High School against an athletic trainer, Franciscan Brother Stephen Baker, who worked there from 1992 to 2001. Baker killed himself in 2013 after abuse settlements with an Ohio diocese where he formerly worked were publicized.

Eighty-eight former McCort students settled claims against the diocese for $8 million in 2014, said Richard Serbin, an Altoona attorney whose been battling the diocese for decades.

A molestation lawsuit against since-defrocked priest Francis Luddy that went to trial in 1994 also exposed many of the problems outlined in the grand jury report. The case led to a verdict of more than $2 million in damages and an appeals court finding that Hogan’s oversight of pedophile priests had been “outrageous.”

“Hundreds of children probably could have been saved from a life of misery had they done something back then and, more importantly, a lot of these child predators could have been criminally prosecuted,” Serbin said.

Associated Press writer Rachel Zoll in New York contributed to this story.

Comments (54)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

  • Didn’t we try to ban the Mormon Church for racial discrimination? Let’s ban the Catholic Church for rape. Forever. Parents, get your children out of Catholic Schools. Adults, choose another religion. Bankrupt them.

    • Notice how the ‘news’ media and other Catholic bashers are forced to walk tip toe on eggshells to avoid mentioning the fact that the vast bulk of these predators were homosexuals preying on innocent, trusting little boys.

      How ‘gay’ is that?

      • thos, rape is not about being gay or straight. Rape is crime about power,violence and intimidation. The decades of cover ups by the Catholic church is just as criminal as the crimes.

        • agree. We need to treat it as the crime it is. The tyranny of the church hierarchy over these towns is scary though. Hard to believe it was allowed to happen for so long.

        • You and I do not disagree on the nature of rape, Tita.

          The point is that with all this celebratory hoopla about the homosexual political agenda, it pays to keep in mind who the primary abusers are and what their orientation is. This is in no way exculpatory for those officials who failed to take responsible action and de-frock these predators at the first opportunity.

          However it should also be noted that these officials were laboring under the delusion that such a deviant predators can be counseled and rehabilitated. These vile, child-abusing freaks of nature can NEVER be educated or rehabilitated and they NEVER deserve a second chance.

        • Thos, no you are missing your own point. You already agreed about the nature of rape. The point is not about the homo or hetero political agenda, but about as you and Tita noted, the abhorrent behavior of the abusers. Instead, you are attempting to create false causal link between the way the press and the church handles same sex or different sex rape.

        • The so called “press” is the wholly owned subsidiary of the well heeled LGBT lobby, hence not to be trusted to cover “inconvenient” news.

        • May I ask how you have drawn that conclusion about the press? Besides the imaginary conspiracy you seem to be creating that is. Do you have evidence of a trail of funds influencing reporting. Or maybe proof that AP leadership is involved? Or is this just a red scare paranoia?

        • C’mon Advertiser. Get real.

          The info tain ment media are totally in bed with the LGBT. Celebrity homosexuals and lesbians can do no wrong and are treated by the media as royalty.

          As for evidence? All one has to do is pick up a newspaper or turn on a TV to see LGBT types everywhere and as thick as flies.

          Straight people sure as [redacted] don’t get that pampered media treatment.

        • You ‘news’ media types provide an avalanche of ‘evidence’ every day. Try reading your own stuff.

      • And, had this exact same level of coverage been directed at, say, Muslim clergy, you’d have been all over their religion of evil and blaming the media for coddling Islam.

        Your only consistency is in your prejudice.

        • And you DON’T think the ultra politically correct ‘news’ media are coddling these feral barbaric subhuman thugs?

          They are afraid to put the words “Muslim” and “terrorist” together in the same sentence lest the precious Muslims become offended and wrap themselves closely in the sacred mantle of victim-hood.

          The ash and smoke of the falling towers had not yet begun to abate when Muslims swarmed our “news” media to whine about being picked on and made to “feeeeeeel” offended. Not one shred of sympathy or distress over the thousands who lost their lives, but endless self pity.

          BAH HUMBUG.

        • Sort of like the way people are “afraid” to put “Catholic” and “pedophile” together in the same sentence. Rightfully so, in my opinion — but, this immunity to reason that you’ve spent a lifetime building is not going to allow you to appreciate that, is it?

        • Just because someone dares to disagree with marvelous you, does not mean that person is immune to reason.

          It is quite possible for reasonable people to look at the same data and draw different conclusions WITHOUT resorting to childish name calling, scorn, spite, contumely or petty vindictiveness.

          Who knows?

          Perhaps even you and I will agree on something.

    • Actually there is a very sound reason. If you spend any time with priests you will quickly come to appreciate why their vocation must never take second place to ANYTHING. A spouse, by definition, ranks higher than any other priority. Chastity (refraining from sexual activity) and celibacy (remaining unmarried) are not merely virtues – – for a priest they are essential to his ability to perform his duty – – which is to say keeping his priorities straight.

      • Well, golly, apparently “hundreds of children” and “more than 50 priests” had a somewhat different experience from the one you describe.

        And, no, I’ve nothing against Catholics — just haters who pick and choose.

        • There can be no doubt these vile homosexuals masquerading as trustworthy priests – – endowed with the enormous power to forgive sin – – did deep and lasting damage.

          That however does not invalidate the observation that priests must be dedicated to their calling to the exclusion of all else.

        • Yes, of course they have a standard to uphold. I never disputed that. But, “Masquerading,” bull. Not only were they ordained, they were insulated and protected by two bishops. Still, I’m more than willing not call the Catholic Church an institution of pedophiles — which is more than I could say for you were you not Catholic.

          …And, it’s still hilarious that the only flexibility you show appears when you attempt to dodge your own condemnations.

        • It was a masquerade in that they obviously did not take their vows to heart, but instead used their position of trust and authority to prey on vulnerable young boys.

        • Until the institution they represent administratively removes them from duty, what they are doing cannot accurately called “masquerading” — no matter how their actions might define them otherwise to you, me or joe blow on the street.

        • If you are waiting for me to disagree with you that these predatory freaks of nature should have been removed, defrocked and jailed, you are going to have a very long wait.

          Clearly a number of officials who should have – – but did not – – acted to protect children, but instead acted in the mistaken believe these predators could be ‘counseled’ or ‘rehabilitated’, these officials can and should be charged with violation of the law. If tried and convicted, they deserve considerable slam time.

          I hope this clarifies the matter for you. There are plenty of areas on which we disagree. This is not one of them.

      • Actually, if you went to college, you would realize that the Catholic Church held a very high position in their community. They had the power through kings and queens. And they held a lot of financial wealth. In order to protect their vast wealth they had to prevent their priests from passing on this wealth to descendants or spouses. Thus came about the requirement for celibacy or ban from marriage. This may of course be challenged by the church today but this fact can be seen in the history of the church.

        • According to a “history” written by WHOM?

          Please cite the specific work, author and date of publication.

  • A religious organization beset with celibate issue from time immemorial finally being exposed over the last 30 years piece meal. First the big metropolitan dioceses and of recent the smaller. In the latter situations often the small city fathers contributed to the problem by consulting with church leaders for advice on selecting their police chiefs. Thus creating an environment where the abuses could be easily concealed and covered up without the need for further criminal actions. Democracy was founded upon the premise that there is distinct separation between Church and State. Wondering if the molestation issue is only with a religious order where celibacy exist. Guess not, a leader of a the Mormon faith was indicted for the polygamist marriage of underage girls recently.

    • Please take issue with me if you think I am in error, but my surmise is that this is but one part of the Satanic mischief lurking in the details of the thoroughly botched – – and overly hasty – – implementation of Vatican II. The Church walked away from its teaching authority, rigor, and high standards in a misguided effort to transform itself into what many call “the Chruch of Nice”. The lowering of standards allowed homosexual predators into seminary like a horde of invading rats. That they would have done so much damage to so many innocent boys can not be considered a surprising development, albeit one that caught Clergy by surprise. As Jesus told Simon, ‘you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ The gates of hell seem to have made quite a great deal of progress in the latter part of the last century thanks largely to Vatican II, but they have not – – and WILL NOT – – prevail.

      • Sorry, my Catholic Church historical knowledge is lacking. Can you tell me when this Vatican II thing happened? Just to confirm, that you are saying prior to the Church of Nice, there were no catholic priests who were predators?

        • It’s really quite laughable. The only reason he’s not raging against the Catholic institutional homosexual agenda, is that he himself is Catholic. Clearly. Obviously.

        • “Can you tell me when this Vatican II thing happened?”

          You ask this basic a question and yet you presume to lecture others on religion?

          Maybe now you are starting to understand how the alternative media are – – for all their faults – – edging putative “news” organizations like yours closer and closer to economic failure/bankruptcy. Falling revenues, staff cut backs, newspapers that are now comic books sized. And all because you have lost the trust of so many readers with your obvious and convulsed bias – – all in the grand pretense that it is your job not to report the news, but “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” and consequences be damned.

        • Just stating an idea that I don’t personally hold in a way that you might. No quotation marks around it because I could not claim to be quoting anyone.

        • ” stating an idea that I don’t personally hold”?????

          How weird is that?

          Just for the heck of it, why don’t you state some ideas y0u DO hold, eh?

        • Yes, I was imitating you — if you need it spelled out. Are you really not clear as to what my opinions are?

        • Are you saying that I am ” stating an idea that I don’t personally hold”?????

          Please provide one – – just ONE – – example of my saying something I do not believe.

    • sailfish1, the vast majority of priests, deacons and religious are honorable hard working men and women who take their vocation very seriously in seeking to serve others. It is thus an indication of how so comparatively few homosexual predators masquerading as priest – – that the might have unfettered access to the forbidden flesh of young boys – – can do so much horrific damage and besmirch the reputations of good men and women. Maybe we out to reconsider the book of Leviticus in that historic light. These are very dangerous people and, after all, we HAVE been warned.

      • Yes, the vast majority… blah-blah-blah…. You’ve just substituted Catholics for any number of groups, that you habitually pack into drowning boxes and condemn, while making the exact same arguments.

        You honestly feel that your defense of your group is different, don’t you? At least you’re no more wrong than “they” are.

        • Are you saying you do NOT believe that “the vast majority of priests, deacons and religious are honorable hard working men and women who take their vocation very seriously in seeking to serve others”?

          And BTW please do me the favor of not asking how I FEEEEEEEEEL about something. What I think, conclude, surmise, believe, advocate, &c. fine, but not FEEEEEL.

          And why not? Because I want to put as much distance between the Cry Baby Boom whiners as possible. These dope smoking, flag burning, draft dodging, veteran cursing dregs took as their curriculum vitae “If it FEEEEELS good, to it” and promised never to grow up. They are the curse under which America has labored for more than half a century.

        • I’m saying nothing of the sort.

          I’m saying that you have a history of energetically railing against anyone who argues that these two, three, or twenty people from the above story are in no way representative of their culture, religion or what have you. Now, you are making the exact same argument. Really. Almost word-for-word.

          What’s known about these abusers? They are 1. Catholic (no getting around that one), 2. they are in positions of power within the church, 3. they are male. 4. we don’t know their race 5.they are predatory pedophiles (not the same thing as a homosexual). You could have picked any one of the first four characteristics and argued that they’re the reason for the fifth. Conversely, you could have mounted the exact same defense for any of those four.

          But you chose the one with which you personally identify to do your “vast majority” thing.

          And, yes: I’ll stand by my statement that these cases do not in any way define Catholics. But, neither do they define any of the other “kinds” of people including gay men — who may or may not even figure into this story.

          “Feel” was a bad word choice. Your feelings matter as much to me as mine do to you — and the question was rhetorical.

        • Please give me one example of my “energetically railing against anyone who argues that these two, three, or twenty people from the above story are in no way representative of their culture, religion or what have you”.

          If you are saying that homosexual predators masquerading as priests – – masquerading because they did not take their vows to heart – – are not necessarily representative of all homosexuals, you’ll find no argument from me. The point at issue is how energetically many of the politically correct persuasion use these crimes against children to bash religion in general and this Church in particular, but gingerly avoid any mention of the FACT that the vast majority of these predators are homosexuals. There is a double standard at work here that is the mark of a well heeled LGBT lobbying that rightfully claims our “news” media as one of their own. At the risk of putting too fine a point in this, the existence of NAMBLA is a FACT, not a matter of conjecture.

          In posing and then answering your rhetorical question (“What’s known about these abusers?”) you left out one critical fact: the vast majority of the young victims of these male predators are vulnerable boys, not girls. It is a telling omission, one which our ‘news’ media dare not mention.

          Thank you for your kind response to my request in re the use of the word “feel”.

  • “practice seen in other dioceses, the bishop created a “payout chart” to help guide how much victims would receive from the church” – That is totally outrageous! All the Catholic churches need to be investigated including their “secret diocesan archives”. All the bishops and priests who are/were involved in sexual abuses should be prosecuted and those bishops and priests who have already expired, their names should be publicized and dragged through the mud.

  • Being a member of the deeply corrupt and morally bankrupt Catholic Church is like being a member of the Nazi Party and claiming that you have nothing to do with killing Jews. The “it was just a few bad apples” excuse doesn’t work. The US prosecutes people who are ISIS sympathizers, but Catholics seem that believe that there is no guilt by association.

  • The Catholic Church must recognize that limiting its priesthood to men who are supposedly going to remain celibate is the root of the abuse (but not the cover up) problem and accept married men and women into the priesthood. After all, the church supposedly holds marriage as a desired state of being. Additionally, it’s also a matter of numbers. There are simply not enough single men willing to enter the priesthood, limiting the pool of applicants to the point where any standards of morality are secondary to simply filling the need for a warm body.

  • Are you saying you do NOT believe that “the vast majority of priests, deacons and religious are honorable hard working men and women who take their vocation very seriously in seeking to serve others”?

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up