Altoona Diocese Sex Abuse Case: Need to Know

York Daily Record
March 2, 2016

Brian Gergely, 33, right, and Kevin Hoover, 30, show old photographs of themselves during a news conference in Altoona, Pa., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2003. They said the pictures were taken during the time they allege a Roman Catholic priest sexually abused them while they were altar boys. The men, along with three others, are suing the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh, Bishop Joseph Adamec, and former Bishop Joseph Hogan, claiming the church should have known about the abuse and was negligent. The Pennsylvania Attorney General's office announced a grand jury report outlining how church leaders covered up sexual abuse.

Two bishops who led a central Pennsylvania Roman Catholic diocese helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children, according to a grand jury report released Tuesday.

The report said more than 50 priests or religious leaders abused children during a 40-year period in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

Catch up on on news about the grand jury's report.

What's in the report

One diocesan official under former Bishop James Hogan told the grand jury that church officials held such sway in the eight-county diocese that "the police and civil authorities would often defer to the diocese" when priests were accused of abuse, the report said.

The grand jury report details the assignments and allegations against priests. Warning: graphic content.

The grand jury investigation was prompted after a district attorney referred an investigation into a priest to the attorney general's office, according to the Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown.

Former bishop's response

Bishop Joseph Adamec released a statement defending his "full record" that "includes his having suspended a number of priests from public ministry and having requested laicization of others," according to Pennlive.

The victims

"He made me question the existence of God," a victim told the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown. "I was very confused at 8. It made me question people's motives all the time.

"They said they lost their faith," Daniel J. Dye, state Deputy Attorney General, said of the victims, as reported by Pennlive. "That is a profound thing to think about. A lot were from very devout Catholic homes and having a priest take interest in them was a status symbol."

Report abuse: Attorney General Kathleen Kane and the grand jury urged victims with information about the Altoona-Johnstown diocese to contact the attorney general's office. A dedicated, toll-free hotline was established for the case: 888-538-8541.

Reaction, statements

The neighboring Harrisburg diocese, which covers counties such as York, Adams, Franklin, Lebanon and Lancaster, released a statement about the allegations, saying it maintains a "zero tolerance" policy on sexual abuse.

"It should have been done 20 years ago," said Richard M. Serbin, an attorney from Altoona who represented Robert A. Paulson Jr., of Dover when he filed a civil suit against the diocese in 2003. "Hundreds of kids could have been saved."

With allegations often coming out too late for prosecution - and with sex abuse scandals hitting Catholic dioceses, boy scouts and Penn State football in recent years - lawmakers hope this latest report will help efforts in extending the statue of limitations, according to Pennlive.

In Altoona, many residents who Pennlive asked about the allegations said they didn't even want to talk about it, or wouldn't give their names because they weren't comfortable speaking about the church.








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