Kane: Children Abused by Priests in Altoona-Johnstown Diocese

By Dave Bohman
March 1, 2016

[with video]

ALTOONA -- A grand jury investigation found that hundreds of children were abused by priests in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnston, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Tuesday.

The state attorney general spelled out the shocking details of "decades of child sexual abuse" by Roman Catholic priests, including some in our area.

"Their souls were killed as children."

The attorney general spoke for the hundreds of victims sexually abused by priests.

Some of the cases from the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown took place as far back as the 1960s.

At a news conference in Altoona, the attorney general said at least 50 priests and religious leaders were involved in the abuse of children and a cover up.

"And hundreds of children today, who are now adults are still suffering those consequences. So today is their day," Kane said.

The Altoona-Johnstown Diocese includes Clinton and Center Counties, including Lock Haven and Renovo in our area.

A total of 11 priests identified by the grand jury served at two churches in our area. Seven of them served at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Renovo.

Kane says investigators discovered a secret archive in the offices of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese that included the statements of the victims of sexual abuse.

At her news conference, Kane said some of those priests accused of abuse are still living.

The attorney general said the priests' testimony showed clear evidence of a cover-up.

"Predator after predator went before the grand jury. Each indicated that it was the first time that any law enforcement official had questioned them," said Kane.

Kane can't bring charges because some abusers have died, the statute of limitations has expired, and in some cases, victims are too traumatized to testify.

The attorney general added that in most cases, church officials never reported crimes to police and gave the offending priests counseling.

"They relied on upon the self-reporting of the accused and then the bishop's returned these monsters to the ministry," Kane said.

Thousands of pages of documents and hand-written reports were seized from the diocese during the investigation.

Kane ended her news conference calling on the state legislature to pass laws eliminating the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children.

There are three such bills being considered in the state house and senate that would do that.

Read the full grand jury report.

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown issued the following statement:

"The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has received the report issued today by the Thirty-Seventh Statewide Investigating Grand Jury.

As noted in the report, the Diocese cooperated fully with authorities throughout the investigation, and will continue to do so as part of our commitment to the safety of all children.

At this time, the Diocese is reviewing the report.

The Diocese’s youth protection policy, which calls for mandatory reporting of all abuse allegations to civil authorities as well as criminal background checks and education for clergy, employees, and volunteers who work with children, may be found at

Suspected child abuse should be reported directly to civil authorities. The Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, Jean Johnstone, may be contacted at (814) 944-9388 for additional support.

This is a painful and difficult time in our Diocesan Church,” said the Most Rev. Mark L. Bartchak, Bishop of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. “I deeply regret any harm that has come to children, and I urge the faithful to join me in praying for all victims of abuse.”

Investigators released a detailed timeline of the alleged abuse.


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