Kane: Hundreds victimized over 40 years in Altoona-Johnstown diocese

By Lori Falce
Centre Daily Times
March 1, 2016

A former priest from Our Lady of Victory Catholic church on Westerly Parkway in State College is among those named in an Office of the Attorney General investigation.

Bishop Mark Bartchak was praised by the grand jury, said Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who pointed to his actions in removing priests from positions of power rather than moving them when allegations were made.

[with video]

Forty years of sexual abuse was brought to light Tuesday as Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane held a news conference to announce the results of “major investigation” of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Kane released the results of the 37th statewide investigating grand jury, a report that showed a pattern of not just sexual abuse and activity but the cover-up of actions by more than 50 priests and other religious leaders.

Among those are nine priests who were attached to Centre County parishes or positions: the Rev. Martin Cingle, a former priest at Our Lady of Victory in State College; the Rev. Robert Kelly, last posted to Philipsburg’s Sts. Peter and Paul Parish; former OLV pastor the Rev. Martin McCamley; former St. John the Evangelist pastors the Rev. Dennis Coleman and the Rev. William Crouse; former Sts. Peter and Paul priest the Rev. Joseph Gaborek; St. Michael’s of Clarence one-time pastor the Rev. William Kovach; another OLV former priest, the Rev. Gerard Ream; and the Rev. George Koharchik, formerly of St. John’s in Bellefonte.

Coleman, Crouse and Ream are deceased. Cingle and Kelly were suspended in 2015. Koharchik was suspended in 2012. Gaborek was dismissed in 2004. Kovach and McCamley are retired.

“Today is not the day that I stand up here and announce that charges have been filed against individuals who have committed the worst sins against children. ... Today is not the day that the victims get to go into a courtroom into a public courtroom and tell the story. ... Today is not that day. Today is the day of reckoning though,” Kane said.

“Today is the day the Office of the Attorney General steps in and tells the stories the victims of abuse cannot tell themselves,” she said. “Today is the day we tell exactly what happened in Pennsylvania.”

The grand jury returned no indictment. Kane used the opporunity to call for an end to the statute of limitations on child sex crimes.

The incidents detailed in the grand jury report would fall outside the statute of limitations.

The released grand jury information detailed a long list of priests and others committing acts from fondling to oral sex to anal rape on boys and girls, as well as other behavior like providing alcohol.

It also showed priests who were hopscotched from parish to parish and assignment to assignment under two different bishops. Kane singled out former bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec for creating a way to hide allegations in locked filing cabinets covered by church law.

“The men of God were devils in disguise,” the grand jury report said.

According to the grand jury report, much of the credit for the unfolding case went to George Foster, a businessman and “proud father and concerned Catholic” who wrote an editorial that prompted others to contact him about their abuse.

In 2014, he met with the OAG investigators in a Pittsburgh hotel where he turned over years of files, including information about his conversations with Adamec.

“The bishop chose to respond with threats and attempted to silence a critic,” said the grand jury report. “However, behind closed doors, Adamec took steps that showed the widespread nature of the problem.”

That response was a chart that calculated how much victims should be paid. Included in the report, it shows over-the-clothes fondling worth $10,000 to $25,000 while taking clothes off bumped it up to a $15,000 to $40,000 range. Oral sex took it to a $25,000 to $75,000, and intercourse or sodomy meant payment as high as $175,000.

The footnotes showed the range would take into consideration factors like how often the abuse occurred, how old the victim was, if the victim was drugged or given alcohol and other aggravating conditions.

“The grand jury notes the cold bureaucracy of this chart,” the report said.

One person in the church hierarchy who both Kane and the grand jury singled out for kudos was current Bishop Mark Bartchak.

“The grand jury commends Bishop Bartchak,” said Kane, who pointed to his actions in removing priests from positions of power rather than moving them when allegations were made.

“Bishop Bartchak is not Bishop Hogan or Adamec. Those men wrote their legacy in the tears of children,” the grand jury report said.

The grand jury still pushed for more, exhorting him to report allegations and “create a real and meaningful victim assistance program.”

The AG’s office released a victim/witness contact number: 888-538-8541.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Kane said.

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