Law enforcement turned a blind eye to priest sex abuse allegations: AG Kathleen Kane
By Christian Alexandersen
March 2, 2016
|Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announces the results of a Grand Jury investigation of child sexual abuse by over 50 priests in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese over the past 40 years. March 1, 2016 at the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona, Pa.|
Photo by Mark Pynes
Law enforcements officials knew about the rape of children by leaders in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and did nothing to stop it, according to a damning grand jury report.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane released a report Tuesday that detailed the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by more than 50 diocesan priests and religious leaders. The abuse took place over the last four decades.
One of the most shocking aspects of the report was that law enforcement had been complicit in the coverup of sexual abuse against children.
Kane said there were instances where law enforcement looked the other way, worked with the diocese to allow priests to retire and allowed priests to go through a psychiatric facility in lieu of criminal charges.
When asked whether or not public officials could be charged as a result of the grand jury report, Kane said "The investigation is ongoing."
The diocese has parishes in eight counties -- including Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clinton, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset. The report did not detail how many law enforcement officials had been involved.
Bringing charges against public officials
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said she was shocked when she read the report.
Miller said she would find it "despicable" if she found out law enforcement in Centre County had ever neglected to investigate sex abuse allegations against children.
The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General has jurisdiction over what criminal charges could come from the grand jury investigation. Since the grand jury has been investigating the issue for two years, Miller said she would rely on the attorney general to bring charges against anyone involved.
State Deputy Attorney General Daniel J. Dye said the statute of limitations for charges that could be brought against public employees -- including police officers and prosecutors -- is eight years.
The Office of the Attorney General set up a hotline -- 888-538-8541 -- for people to provide information about sexual abuse by religious officials Altoona-Johnstown diocese. The hope, Kane said, is that new information could lead to criminal charges.
Powerful church officials prevented investigations
Monsignor Philip Saylor, who the grand jury identified as one of Bishop James Hogan's "underlings," testified of the power the diocese wielded in the community.
The police and civil authorities would often defer to the diocese concerning incidents involving Altoona-Johnstown priests and religious leaders sexually abusing children.
The grand jury noted that priests who had sexually abused children or had sexual interests in children were sent to unlicensed Catholic treatment facilities. In many case, the grand jury said, the "child molesters" would be sent back into the Altoona-Johnstown diocese.
For example, evidence shows the diocese exercised its authority and influence to cover up the sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy by Joseph Gaborek in the 1980s.
The grand jury determined that Hogan spoke to police and told an investigator that the priest 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 St. Thomas Moore in Roaring Spring.