Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown's disturbing history of sexual abuse
By Christian Alexandersen
March 1, 2016
|The legacy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown will be built on countless stories of child sexual abuse, broken trust and millions of dollars paid for the unforgivable sins of religious leaders. |
The legacy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown now will include countless stories of child sexual abuse, broken trust and millions of dollars paid for the sins of religious leaders.
The results of a state grand jury investigation released Tuesday found that hundreds of children were sexually abused and raped by diocese priests and religious leaders over the past 40 years. The widespread acts of abuse were perpetrated by more than 50 priests and religious leaders.
"The heinous crimes these children endured are absolutely unconscionable," said Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Tuesday in Blair County.
"These predators desecrated a sacred trust and preyed upon their victims in the very places where they should have felt most safe."
Allegations of abuse by priests, and a cover up by diocesan officials, have long been known.Over the years, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has paid millions of dollars to settle civil lawsuits filed by people who said they were victims of sexual abuse by church officials.
The dozens of reports of abuse dated back to the 1950s. Many have been previously been made public as victims filed lawsuits and settlement agreements were reached:
In 2007, an out-of-court settlement was reached with a sexual abuse victim of William A. Rosensteel. The 64-year-old priest jumped off a bridge before the announcement that sex abuse allegations against him would be referred to law enforcement.
In 2005, a State College man and St. Vincent Archabbey reached a settlement of an unspecified amount in excess of $30,000 for alleged sexual molestation by The Rev. Alvin T. Downey, a monk of St. Vincent and a psychiatric nurse.
In 2004, the Associated Press reported that the diocese agreed to pay $3.7 million to settle claims by nearly two dozen people who alleged they were sexually abused by priests and a school teacher.
In 1987, the diocese awarded $1.2 million following allegations of sexual abuse by The Rev. Francis Luddy, who was later defrocked
Concealing child abuse
Kane announced Tuesday that evidence and testimony was gathered by the grand jury that revealed a history of diocesan officials taking action to conceal child abuse as part of an effort to protect the institution's image.
Such allegations have been known for decades, as evidenced in a 2002 report by the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, based on records made public as a result of a 1994 trial of a defrocked priest on sexual abuse charges.
The article begins:
"Officials of Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese have known of at least 10 priests implicated in sex abuse cases involving hundreds of young boys, according to public records reviewed by the Tribune-Democrat.
But the offenders remained in the priesthood, and the diocese meted out such mild punishments as transfers, therapy or 'rest and recreation.'"
More than 115,000 documents were removed from the diocese during the recent grand jury investigation that bolsters this idea. In what Kane referred to as a "secret archive," evidence was collected that the grand jury said shows that Diocese bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec were at the forefront of a child-abuse cover-up.
And the evidence shows, Kane said, several instances in which law enforcement officers and prosecutors failed to pursue allegations of child sexual abuse occurring within the diocese.
The grand jury highlighted a "particularly heinous" account involving priest Joseph Gaborek. Kane said evidence shows that the diocese exercised its authority and influence to cover up the sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy in the 1980s.
The grand jury determined that Hogan spoke to police and told an investigator that Gaborek would be sent to an institution. Instead, Gaborek was sent on sabbatical to a school for boys where there was no psychological or psychiatric treatment available.
Gaborek was later sent to another parish.