Pennsylvania Diocese Leaders Knew of Sex Abuse for Decades, Grand Jury Says
By Richard Perez-Pena And Laurie Goodstein
New York Times
March 1, 2016
Over four decades, at least 50 priests and other church employees molested hundreds of children in a small Roman Catholic diocese in central Pennsylvania, and in many cases their superiors knew of the abuses but did not remove the priests or notify law enforcement, according to a grand jury report released on Tuesday.
But none of the findings will result in prosecution, according to State Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, whose office led the investigation, because the statutes of limitations on all alleged crimes have expired.
The report names a dozen priests who admitted — to church officials, to the grand jury or both — that they had molested children, and other cases where church records made clear that their superiors believed they were guilty. None were taken to law enforcement, and in cases where police or prosecutors learned of allegations, the report says, church officials worked to hush them up.
“They placed their desire to avoid public scandal over the well-being of innocent children,” the report says.
The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is only the most recent to be the target of an investigation and a report by a grand jury or attorney general for shielding priests who abused children. But the numbers it cites are striking for a diocese that claims fewer than 100,000 Catholics.
There have been public allegations in the past against some of the priests named in the report, including the Rev. Joseph D. Maurizio Jr., who is to be sentenced on Wednesday in a case that drew international attention. Father Maurizio, who raised money for an orphanage in Honduras, was convicted in federal court in September of sexually abusing boys at the orphanage, money laundering and possessing child pornography.
Bishop Joseph Adamec, former leader of the diocese, learned of allegations against Father Maurizio in 2009, according to the grand jury report and the charity that sponsored the orphanage. But Bishop Adamec and his successor, Bishop Mark L. Bartchak, kept Father Maurizio on as pastor at a church in Central City, Pa., until shortly before his arrest in 2014.
Given that record, Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, said she was puzzled that the grand jury report did not hold Bishop Bartchak accountable, as well.
In a statement, the diocese said it had “cooperated fully with authorities throughout the investigation, and will continue to do so.”
The report offers a scathing picture of Bishop James Hogan, who led the diocese from 1966 to 1986, and died in 2005, as a leader who repeatedly persuaded the police and prosecutors to drop criminal cases against priests, failed to discipline people he knew were abusers, and responded to complaints about predatory priests by relocating them to jobs where they could molest again.
It contains serious, but less harsh, criticism of his successor, Bishop Adamec, who retired in 2011 but retains his title. It cites a few priests who were allowed to continue ministry for years after the diocese learned of allegations against them, including three who remain active priests, and notes that the diocese turned none of the priests in to the police or prosecutors.
The records indicate that with over half the priests, the diocese did not learn of alleged abuse until decades had passed, when no legal action was possible.
The bishop’s lawyer, David Berardinelli, released a response describing the grand jury report as one-sided and unfair. It notes that unlike his predecessors, Bishop Adamec frequently suspended accused pedophile priests, often soon after learning of the allegations, and asked the church hierarchy to defrock them. Those he allowed to remain in active ministry have had “no new allegation of abuse of a minor” since then.
Pope Francis called last year for the Vatican to create a tribunal on judging bishops accused of negligence, but the Vatican has yet to do so. Last month, Francis said in a news conference that bishops who kept abusive priests in ministry should resign.
The report names 35 priests, most of them now dead, who have been accused of child molestation, and cites other abusers who are not named. The information is based mostly on documents taken from diocesan offices in 2014 under a search warrant.