BANNERS OF DISGRACED BISHOPS REMOVED FROM DIOCESAN CATHEDRAL
By Joseph Pelletier
March 11, 2016
|Bp. Mark Bartchak|
"[T]he focus should be on the victims of abuse"
ALTOONA, Penn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Pennsylvania bishop is ordering banners honoring two disgraced bishops to be taken down "indefinitely."
The decision from Bp. Mark Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown came last Friday following the release of a grand jury report implicating the diocese's two previous bishops in a four-decade cover-up of over 50 homosexual priests. The two banners, which hung in the nave of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, bore the names of Bp. James Hogan and Bp. Joseph Adamec, along with the title "The Most Reverend" and their respective positions as the sixth and seventh bishops of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese.
ChurchMilitant.com learned from the diocese that in addition to the two banners for Hogan and Adamec, the remaining six honoring Altoona-Johnstown's other bishops were also removed. Moreover the diocese has taken down featured portraits of all eight prelates.
According to diocesan spokesman Tony DeGol, the bishop "feels this is a time of humility for the diocese and the focus should be on the victims of abuse."
Bishops Hogan and Adamec led the Altoona-Johnstown diocese in southern Pennsylvania from 1966 to 2011, a period in which, according to a grand jury report compiled by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, the two sheltered homosexual priests responsible for molesting hundreds of children, the vast majority being post-pubescent boys.
In addition to a code of silence within the chancery, local law enforcement, including police chiefs, officers and judges, also collaborated in the cover-up, often alerting the diocese of impending police surveillance and meeting with diocesan hierarchy — as opposed to the prosecution — to discuss the transfer of offending clergy.
During questioning with the attorney general's office, Cambria County judge Patrick Kiniry, one of the officials mentioned in the report, admitted that "back then, the diocese moved the problem ... that's just how it was."
In response to the findings, Bp. Bartchak suspended several priests mentioned by name in the grand jury report pending further investigation. The bishop, who has not been accused of misconduct, issued a statement saying he "deeply regret[s] any harm that has come to children."
The decision to remove the banners is one of a handful of examples in which sitting bishops rescind honors or commemorations given to scandalized prelates. In 2007, Bp. Gerald A. Gettelfinger, then head of the diocese of Evansville, Indiana, ordered that all honors bestowed on disgraced monsignor Othmar Schroeder be revoked, including the name of a local Knights of Columbus council. Monsignor Schroeder was allegedly responsible for what Bp. Gettelfinger called the largest sexual abuse scandal in the history of the 70-parish diocese.
Many dioceses, however, continue celebrating the work of dishonored bishops, most notably the archdiocese of Milwaukee, whose cathedral and parish offices maintain the legacy of homosexual archbishop Rembert Weakland. The archbishop retired in 2002 amid breaking revelations he had stolen $200,000 of church funds after being blackmailed by a former gay lover. In 2009 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel unearthed a 1993 deposition exposing Weakland for having shredded reports concerning sexual abuse by priests in addition to allowing priests accused of sex abuse to continue working without notifying parishioners or the authorities. The results were a $21 million payout in 2015 after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011.
Despite the facts, the Milwaukee diocese continues to honor Weakland in various ways, including officially naming the parish office complex the "Weakland Center." Additionally, a bronze altar pedestal — commissioned during Weakland's tenure — featuring the archbishop protecting young children remains in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
ChurchMilitant.com confirmed with cathedral staff that both commemorations are currently in place and was informed that a framed portrait of the homosexual archbishop hangs in the parish offices.