Priest Accused of Abuse
By Kathy Mellott
August 24, 2012
ALTOONA — A Roman Catholic priest has been relieved of his duties by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown after allegations surfaced that he sexually molested what was termed as "young boys" at a parish in Cambria County more than 30 years ago.
The Rev. George D. Koharchik, 63, born in Windber and raised in Johnstown has been placed on leave from active ministry by Bishop Mark L. Bartchak pending the outcome of a criminal investigation in the hands of the Cambria County District Attorney's office, Tony DeGol, diocese secretary for communications, said Friday.
"It's important to note that these are just allegations," DeGol said. "Right now the allegations involve just a parish in Cambria County."
DeGol was not specific about which parishes Koharchik served in Cambria County in the 1980s when the alleged abuse likely occurred, but he said, "The allegations are that it was not at more than one parish."
Additionally, The Tribune-Democrat could not immediately determine Friday how many boys may have come forward with allegations nor how the allegations became known to the diocese.
"There was more than one victim," DeGol said.
The Tribune-Democrat archives show Koharchik at one time was at St. Clement Roman Catholic Church in Upper Yoder Township and also served at St. Joseph's parish in Portage.
He is currently pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Mount Union.
He has served there since June 2006, DeGol said.
Koharchik was named the parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist parish in Bellefonte in 1986.
He also was a current member of the personnel board, an advisory board to the bishop, according to the diocese website.
Koharchik's name was removed from that board as of Friday.
"The DA has been notified. It is now in her hands," DeGol said.
Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Beth Bolton Penna said the information was passed on to the district attorney's office Thursday.
"We don't have a lot of information. Until more information can be gathered we won't be able to say much," Penna said.
She could say neither how many potential victims have come forward nor in which parish the abuses are alleged to have occurred.
While the alleged abuse occurred more than three decades ago, recent changes in the law have given far broader latitude in prosecution, Penna said.
"The statute of limitations has been expanded especially for child victims of sexual abuse. There is a lot of flexibility, a longer time," she said.
Koharchik is a 1966 graduate of Bishop McCort High School, Johnstown.
He also was a graduate of St. Francis College, and he was granted a master of divinity degree by St. Francis Seminary in 1974.
While in seminary, he was employed part time as a counselor and attendant at the Cambria County Detention Home.
While he is on leave, Koharchik will not be permitted to function as a priest and will reside at a place where he has no contact with children, DeGol said in a statement.
The diocese has taken steps to comply with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests, according to the statement.
Koharchik's future status will be determined at what DeGol termed "the appropriate time," after consulting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.
Bartchak's report to the Vatican will not interfere with the jurisdiction of the district attorney's office, he said.
Steps are being taken to find a priest for the Mount Union parish. A visiting priest will celebrate Mass and the sacraments in the parish this weekend, following the normal schedule, DeGol said.
Bartchak will appoint a temporary administrator to oversee daily affairs of the Huntingdon County parish.
The bishop said these are "difficult days," and he asked the faithful to pray for the victims and the parish family in Mount Union.
"Children are a precious gift from God, and we must always take the necessary steps to ensure their protection in the Catholic Church," he said in a statement. "I pray for the alleged victims in this case and for all children who have suffered sexual abuse in our society."