New Church Shocker

The Tribune-Democrat [Pennsylvania]
Downloaded February 23, 2003

Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese officials know of sex abuse accusations against four previously unidentified priests, but have not taken the steps required by the church's national zero-tolerance policy.

Those who brought the information to Bishop Joseph Adamec say they were rebuffed and that nothing has been done.

They are now demanding Adamec step down.

Two of the accused priests were stationed at Johnstown's Catholic high school - one as principal, and the other as music director and director of a boys and girls' camp.

One of the accused priests now holds a leadership position in the diocese, and two are pastors in diocese churches.

The four priests are in addition to 10 other accused priests identified in the 1994 sex abuse trial of now-defrocked Francis Luddy.

The accused priests have declined comment.

The new claims against the bishop follow on the heels of this month's filing of another lawsuit against the diocese. It accuses Adamec and former Bishop James J. Hogan of covering up sexual abuse by priests, transferring offending priests from church to church and lying to area congregations.

The diocese also is keeping the new accusations a secret from area prosecutors, despite Adamec's repeated promises of cooperation with district attorneys in the eight counties of the diocese.

David Gorman, Blair County's district attorney, terms the bishop's reticence "disappointing" and says it is wrong to keep prosecutors in the dark.

Adamec, while several times refusing through a diocese spokeswoman to answer specific questions posed by The Tribune-Democrat, maintains he is handling all complaints in an appropriate manner, and that past incidents are not public information.

"The fact that we do not issue a statement for the newspapers about each case does not mean that no action takes place," he said in a written statement.

Attorneys for victims disagree, saying Adamec continues the diocese's long pattern of protecting known sex abusers who serve as priests.

One set of abuse allegations involves all three sons of a Johnstown area couple, while a priest was an honored guest in the home and frequently ate at the family's table.

Those who brought the information to Adamec say they now believe they must go public so others will not be victimized.

The accusations:

nThat the Rev. James Bunn, a Johnstown priest who befriended a devout Catholic Johnstown couple, sexually abused their son.

He later served as principal at Bishop McCort High School, but was transferred, ending up as pastor of St. Joan of Arc Church in Fallentimber.

nThat the Rev. Martin McCamley made a young boy sleep in the same bed with him during a field trip, saying he had not paid for the other bed in the motel room.

McCamley is the former music program director at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown and is now pastor of Our Lady of Victory Church in State College.

In his leadership role, McCamley serves on the diocese's Presbyterial Council and is vicar of the Northern Deanery, one of eight in the diocese.

nThat the Rev. Robert J. Kelly molested an altar boy. He was sent to a treatment center, then back to parishes, ending up as pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church in Philipsburg.

nThat the Rev. Bernard V. Grattan, now in residence at Sacred Heart Church, Conemaugh, and a former hospital chaplain who last year was abruptly placed on leave after a patient complained, committed inappropriate sexual conduct.

'Under watch'

Adamec told those who brought him the allegations last summer that he has had both Kelly and Grattan "under watch" and has said, both in court and in conversations with accusers, that his practice is to keep an eye on accused priests.

But he did not remove them from contact with children or inform new congregations, and he told the accusers in a June 26 letter obtained by The Tribune-Democrat that, "Whatever cases there are, I have handled appropriately."

And at no time did Adamec report the accusations to prosecutors, as he promised to do after June's national U.S. bishops' conference, when the zero-tolerance policy was adopted in response to the national sex scandal.

"If there are new accusations, but of old occurrences, we would definitely expect to be told of that," said Gorman, the Blair County district attorney.

"Even if the statute of limitations were up, the name of the priest could come up again in connection with a different case, or a different victim," Gorman said in a telephone interview from his Hollidaysburg office.

Other prosecutors in the diocese designated Gorman to handle priest abuse claims because the diocese is headquartered in Blair County.

"If there's information, any information, we expect it to be turned over. That was the agreement," he said.

"I'm very much disappointed to learn that that isn't the case," he said.

Also disappointed are conservative lay Catholics who gathered information in hopes of spurring the diocese to clean its own house.

Disturbed at the national scandals, and aware of the Luddy case and its painful revelations of sex abuse and cover-ups in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, the laymen spent months urging victims to come forward.

They did.

"All of this information came to me and to several other Catholics. At the time it was so horrifying that many wanted to go public right away," said George Foster, head of the Lay Stewardship Foundation in Altoona and an outspoken critic of the bishop.

"I said that I thought it was important that we make another run at the diocese, and give the bishop every opportunity to get this corrected," he said.

Foster and a colleague met with the bishop June 21, less than a week after the national bishops' conference in Dallas, where tough measures were adopted.

Foster was disappointed a few days later, when they were rebuffed by a letter from Adamec, saying that, "Whatever cases there are, I have handled (them) appropriately."

But the priests were not removed from their ministries and instead remained in positions of trust, where further abuse would be possible, Foster said.

The laymen have not heard further from Adamec or any other diocesan higher-ups.

All the while, they heard and read Adamec's statements that he would go after older priests accused of molesting children and would report allegations to prosecutors.

Now, months later, and after seeing aggressive action in other dioceses locally and nationally, Foster and his colleagues are convinced the Altoona-Johnstown diocese is more interested in covering up than in doing right by victims.

So now they are ready to disclose their information, and they want Adamec to resign.

Adamec has declined requests for an interview with The Tribune-Democrat, and declined to answer 12 written questions submitted by a reporter in September about how the diocese has handled sex abuse accusations.

Contacted three weeks ago about new allegations against four priests, Sister Mary Parks, secretary of communications for the diocese, issued a three-paragraph statement saying that it is difficult to substantiate allegations of old events.

By early this month, the bishop had held one meeting with accusing family members.

Johnstown attorney Caram J. Abood represents the complaining family, who wish to remain anonymous to protect the identity of their sons. Abood confirmed that the father and one son met with the bishop.

"We were not entirely satisfied, and not entirely dissatisfied," Abood said in a telephone interview.

"We now want to go before the lay review board, because that's what the procedure calls for."

Abood said that just because the accusations involve old incidents, it doesn't mean they aren't valid.

"Why would they come forward now? Everyone understands that Catholics over the past 20 years have become more outspoken. They didn't want to sue, but they want things known. Mostly, they want to be certain that the diocese prevents this from happening again," he said.

"There's nothing wrong with that, and in fact, there's everything right about that."

Only McCamley returned a reporter's phone call.

"I have no comment. The diocese has a regular procedure, and I have no objections to going through any of that, including a lay panel review," he said.

Not surprising

Foster said he is not surprised that little action has taken place since he brought the accusations to the bishop in June.

After the meeting that day, he said he documented the meeting by writing a three-page summary to Adamec and asking for any corrections.

Adamec wrote a one-page reply on June 26, correcting two minor points and saying that controversy in the diocese is caused by outside forces with "political purposes."

He did not address the accusations or offer any assurances of action.

For Foster, it was a disappointing response.

"Boy, was I ever naive. I thought the diocese truly wanted to address the issue of sex abuse. They don't," said Foster during an interview in his Altoona office.

"The cases that I brought to the bishop met all the criteria he himself set forward - the time, place, what happened, the victim and priest named, etc.

"But nothing has been addressed. They don't want victims to come forward. They don't want to solve the problem," he said.

"The bishop is trying to hide everything. He has no intentions of fixing it. You tell him of a situation, and he'll say 'What do you want?' You tell him of an accusation, and he'll say, 'That priest's retired now.' That's not a solution," Foster said.

The information Foster took to Adamec involved four priests.

"We presented actual testimony for these victim's cases, which met your criteria (stated by the bishop after the national conference), but now you say they were not credible enough to require the removal of priests," Foster wrote to the bishop.

Foster said Adamec was aware of abuse allegations against one priest, but he still reassigned him to other parishes.

"You said it was not because you were trying to hide anything," Foster wrote to the bishop. "Interesting, that was exactly Bishop (James ) Hogan's testimony years ago. This practice of moving priests is unacceptable, no matter what the reason.

"I must restate these victims see little hope when they know you are aware of other cases, yet the priest remains in active service," he wrote.

Behavior issues

Foster in his letter also took Adamec to task for tolerating overtly homosexual behavior by some priests, and the diocese's practice of sending them to rehabilitation centers only to have the same priests later abuse young boys.

"History and medical studies have indicated active homosexual priests have been a high risk to children. We have a number of other priests who have also been active homosexuals, and this only exacerbates our concern," Foster wrote.

In July, Foster wrote to those who had come to him for help, saying he had failed.

"We have several priests who have been practicing homosexuals for many years. Some of these men have digressed to molesting children. The overall numbers of homosexual priests is approaching 20, with almost 10 accused as child molesters," he wrote.

"The bishop has been aware of these men for many years and has allowed this atmosphere to grow. I truly believe he is too involved with the cover-ups to end this crisis," he wrote.

Foster posed three options to his fellow conservative Catholic lay persons:

The bishop moves quickly to remove the four priests Foster reported, the bishop resigns or the accusations are made public.

Today, with the bishop not acting on the accusations, the conservative Catholics are choosing options two and three.

They want Adamec out and a new bishop put in.

And, they have a Web site under construction, www.diocese.aj., which will present specific information about specific priests, said Foster.

Tomorrow: Just as damaging as sex abuse claims are the church's policies of hushing it up.


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