Bishop Mark Bartchak Responds to Grand Jury Report
Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown
March 3, 2016
As Bishop of the diocese, I extend my most heartfelt and sincere apology. I apologize to the victims, to their families, to the faithful people of our diocese, to the good priests of our Diocese, and to the public.
I acknowledge there are a number of recommendations made in this report involving how we respond to allegations of abuse. I take them seriously.
I appreciate the grand jury’s recognition of the progress we have made. I have been bishop for five years. During this time, we have re-examined allegations, removed clergy from ministry, reported allegations to civil authorities, and strengthened our training program. I am committed to doing even more to protect children.
In addition to reporting allegations, I have met with victim-survivors. Their words and their pain have deeply affected me. I pledge to them and to all families to do all that I can to ensure children are safe.
Someone recently shared the expression, “when you know more, you can do more.” With the grand jury report, we know more, and we will do more. Let me start with a significant commitment to transparency, past and future.
I will publish a list of all priests who have been the subject of credible allegations, along with each priest’s current status. The list will be posted on our website.
This Diocese will continue to report to law enforcement, in writing, all allegations it receives of any type of sexual misconduct involving a minor by any clergy or religious (living or deceased), regardless of when the conduct occurred, whether or not the victim is now a minor and whether or not the victim or another person already has made the report.
In addition, I will undertake a full review of our diocesan policies and procedures regarding child protection and will make all changes that should be made. This review will be comprehensive and will include our training and background check programs, the diocesan review board, and communication on reporting requirements.
I urge anyone who has information about suspected abuse to call the Attorney General’s hotline, 888-538-8541. In addition, the diocesan victim assistance coordinator, Jean Johnstone, may be contacted at 814-944-9388, for additional support.
We are people of faith. I will share a message with the people of our Diocese this weekend through their pastors, and plans are being made for special Prayer Services for Mercy in the coming weeks.
Finally, I ask that we turn to our Lord for comfort and healing from these wounds as we pray for those who have been harmed, for all who have been affected, and for the many priests in our Diocese who have been faithful to their vocation and to the people they serve.