Pennsylvania Bishop Promises Reforms after Abuse Report
March 3, 2016
The bishop of a Pennsylvania Catholic diocese apologized Thursday and promised reforms two days after the attorney general released a scathing report on clergy sex abuse of children involving allegations against dozens of priests.
“I acknowledge there are a number of recommendations made in this report involving how we respond to allegations of abuse. I take them seriously,” Bishop Mark Bartchak said from a prepared statement at a news conference.
Bartchak heads the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, home to more than 90,000 Roman Catholics in eight counties in central Pennsylvania.
A hotline Attorney General Kathleen Kane created to solicit information about additional victims has gotten more than 100 calls since she issued her 147-report based on secret diocesan archives and other sources on Tuesday.
Among other things, Bartchak promised to publish a list of all priests who are the subject of credible abuse allegations on the diocesan website, as well as their ministerial status. The bishop also promised a “full review of our diocesan policies and procedures regarding child protection and will make all changes that should be made.”
The diocese will review its training, background checks and procedures for reporting of abuse allegations to law enforcement. It will also examine the diocesan review board, whose members appointed by the bishop vet abuse allegations.
Kane said the board was a sham that protected priests and scrutinized accusers to the point that it discouraged abuse allegations. The bishop didn’t say what kinds of changes would be made or how long they may take to implement.
Two former bishops, James Hogan and Joseph Adamec, either covered up or didn’t do enough to respond to hundreds of allegations of child abuse by more than 50 priests in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese from 1966 to 2011, Kane said. Hogan died in 2005 but Adamec and his attorney have denied that he failed to address the allegations promptly or properly.
Kane spokesman Jeff Johnson said the hotline is meant to field information that could lead to criminal charges. Kane’s report didn’t recommend any because she said the victims were either too reluctant, the accused priests had died, or the statute of limitations had run out on the allegations.
“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),” the bishop’s statement said. That will be done regardless of when the abuse allegedly occurred, whether the alleged victim is still a minor, and whether the allegation has already been reported by someone else.
Bartchak also said he’ll deliver a special message to parishioners this weekend and schedule special prayer services for mercy in the coming weeks.