Until Victims Come Forward, Prosecutors Unable to Investigate Allegations against Priest
By Maria Miller
August 28, 2012
CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. —
It was last Friday that Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese told prosecutors in Cambria County that he had received allegations involving one of their priests. He said George Koharchik may have abused a number of children possibly as far back as 30 years ago.
Barchak removed Koharchik from his position at St. Catherine of Siena in Mount Union. He is not facing charges because there haven't been any alleged victims that have come forward. 6 News reporter Maria Miller talked with prosecutors on Tuesday to find out why they're not actively seeking the alleged victims.
The diocese said the allegations come from a time when Koharchik was in Cambria County, but said it does not plan to release the names of any churches where the abuse may have occurred.
"The alleged abuse happened so long ago that we are trying to be very mindful that this is a tough situation for all involved," said Tony DeGol, secretary for communications for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. "We certainly don't want to put that parish community in the spotlight unnecessarily."
DeGol said the diocese was made aware of the allegations just recently and immediately took action.
"The bishop contacted the district attorney of Cambria County and told her about the allegations," said DeGol. "They had a conversation about that and the situation is now in her control, in her office, to investigate."
The District Attorney's Office said Tuesday they are aware of the situation and understand there is more than one alleged victim who has come forward, but because the alleged victims are now adults, the church is not required to release their names.
"If they were children at this time, there would be a mandatory report that the church would have to do," said Beth Bolton Penna, an assistant district attorney for Cambria County. "However, because they're adults coming forward, the church necessarily does not have to hand over those names if it's being requested by the victims not to."
And that creates a problem for prosecutors.
"We would be more than willing to work with them and speak with them and get them directed to the proper police department and pursue this if they're willing to," said Bolton Penna.
But if they're not willing and they don't feel comfortable doing it, then that's a choice they'll have to make."
Koharchik remains suspended from his duties as priest, and the diocese said he's staying at a place where he'll have no contact with children.