Local Clergy Implicated in Abuse Scandal

By Lara Brenckle
Centre Daily Times
February 25, 2003

Two Centre County priests are among four previously unnamed clergy to be accused of impropriety with children following the 1994 trial of the now defrocked Francis Luddy.

The Rev. Martin McCamley, now pastor of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in State College, is accused of sharing a bed with a young boy during a field trip 35 years ago.

The Rev. Robert J. Kelly, now pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Philipsburg, is accused of molesting an altar boy. And the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese is accused of moving Kelly around to other parishes and finally to the Philipsburg church after sending him to a treatment center.

In addition, the diocese is accused of delaying the investigations and of not reporting these new accusations to local authorities, something the diocese had promised as part of the church's new zero-tolerance policy to combat child sex abuse.

The (Johnstown) Tribune-Democrat reported Sunday that the diocese knew about the claims but did nothing about them, something one of the two Centre County priests denies.

A former Bishop McCort High School student told church officials that McCamley, who, at the time was the director of the Johnstown Catholic high school's music program, had made the student share a bed with him during a school field trip 35 years ago.

On Sunday, McCamley made an unprompted statement from the pulpit of OLV, where he denied any impropriety.

"When your good name is dragged across a newspaper with insinuations and inaccuracies, people have the right to know who is standing in front of them preaching every Sunday," McCamley said Monday.

The incident stemmed from a three-day district choral festival trip.

The weather was supposed to turn nasty the day the group was to leave, according to McCamley's statement. He, the student and the student's parents decided it would be best to leave for the 3 1/2-hour trip immediately after school that Wednesday. Registration for the festival, McCamley said, began early Thursday morning.

Students normally stay in private homes, McCamley's letter said. However, because they were arriving early, McCamley and the student decided to stay at a hotel. McCamley believed they would have no trouble finding rooms.

As it turned out, hotels in the small town were booked solid. When he was told there might be vacancies at a hotel across town, the priest and boy went there.

"When I arrived at the hotel, I was told they were booked up but had just received a call that one party would arrive early Thursday morning instead of late Wednesday night," McCamley's letter said. "Contrary to the newspaper article, which said I did not pay for two beds, I did not have a choice. I was told I could use the room only if I used only one bed. I don't remember if the reason was given or not. It was already very late, dark and cold. ... Given the circumstances, I saw no other option."

McCamley also said that had the student expressed any discomfort at the situation at the time, he would not have done it.

"Absolutely nothing happened that evening," McCamley's letter said. "This student and I often did not see eye to eye on things. And he certainly had no difficulty informing his parents of our disagreements. They often called me about them. Looking back, I can only assume that either he said nothing since he saw no problem or he did say something and the parents did not see a problem. Thirty years after the fact, there is a problem."

According to McCamley, he got a standing ovation from parishioners after reading his letter Sunday.

As to the diocese's alleged lack of action, McCamley said he presented his explanation of events almost four years ago, when called upon to do so. He underwent voluntary psychological evaluation and testing.

"The bishop, with a consultative body, were satisfied no further action should be taken," McCamley's letter said.

Kelly was out of the area Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Bishop Joseph V. Adamec was also out of the area Monday. The Tribune-Democrat reported that Adamec had no comment, other than to say he would go through the process of a lay review board.



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