Harrisburg diocese under investigation; police called to office of state representative who testified to investigators
By Ivey Dejesus
September 16, 2016
|Rep. Mark Rozzi, (D-Berks), on Friday summoned police to his district office after staff took a threatening call. The call came amid media reports about a statewide grand jury investigation into clergy sex. Rozzi, a survivor of clergy sex abuse, has testified to investigators and has been cited as such in media reports.|
State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) on Friday called police to his district office after a member of his staff received a threatening phone call.
"They felt it was crazy enough to call Capital Police and also bring in our local township police," Rozzi said speaking by phone from his district office in Mullenberg Township . "They are saying a lot of crazy things. They are concerned."
The call came amid a story published by The Morning Call detailing a statewide investigation by the state Attorney General's office into allegations of clergy sex abuse.
Among the diocese being investigated by grand jury prosecutors are the dioceses of Harrisburg, Allentown and Pittsburgh.
Rozzi, a survivor of clergy sex abuse who has led the effort to expose predators in the Catholic Church and reform child sex crime laws, told The Morning Call that he had testified to investigators.
RELATED: Witnesses say investigation findings to be much worse than in other dioceses.
Speaking to PennLive on Friday, Rozzi said he gave his testimony to investigators about a month ago in Pittsburgh. Included in his testimony, he said, was information on his own abuse by a priest as a 13-year-old and his assessment of the fate of House Bill 1947, which reforms the statute of limitations. Victim advocates say the bill was dealt a blow by the Senate when the chamber voted to amend it and strip from it measures that would have given legal recourse to victims of past abuse.
Rozzi said that while Friday's caller was prompted by the story in The Morning Call, he has in the past received similar threatening calls.
"They are very will do anything to protect the church," he said "That's what this one guy is. This has nothing to do with the church. This is about predators within the church that are protected by the hierarchy.
Harrisburg Diocese spokesman Joseph Aponick on Friday morning confirmed that the diocese had received a subpoena from the state grand jury.
"The diocese is cooperating fully," he said.
Aponick said the diocese from time to time receives reports of allegations of clergy sex abuse. He said the diocese encourages callers to call the state's Child Line first, and then the diocese's victims assistance number.
"We will offer healing no matter when the abuse took place," Aponick said.
The latest state grand jury investigation was launched months ago in the wake of a scathing report out in March on the systemic abuse of thousands of children over decades by priests and church leaders in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Jeffrey Johnson, a spokesman for the Attorney General's office said he was bound from discussing the ongoing investigation.
He did confirm that the office has logged an increasing volume of calls to the special hotline is established for reporting child sex crimes in the wake of the Altoona-Johnstown report.
"I can tell you the office's diocese hotline has generated hundreds of calls and we are doing our due diligence to handle investigative leads appropriately," Johnson said.
Grand jury investigators found that church leaders - and at times law enforcement officials - in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese had for decades allowed some 50 priests and church leaders to sexually abuse generations of children. Some prosecutors have put the estimate of children abused in the thousands.
Over the years, at least 15 priests who had at one time served in the Harrisburg Diocese have been identified in allegations of child sex abuse - some of them credible.
In a report this year, The York Daily Record included among those names the Rev. Raymond Prybis, who once served at St. Joseph's in Dallastown. Prybis was accused of abuse during his time at a Boston-area parish before he was transferred to York County. Prybis did not have a credible allegation of abuse against him while at St. Joseph's, the YDR reported.
Aponick reiterated on Friday that most of the priests named in allegations over the years have either died or the alleged abuse happened outside of the diocese, often in other states.
Over the years, victims, speaking on background to PennLive, have stated that the systemic abuse that has been allowed to happen unchecked in such diocese as Allentown and Pittsburgh is far worse than what grand jury investigators in March detailed in their report on the abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese.
Rozzi echoed that sentiment.
"After reading the Altoona-Johnstown report, I thought it couldn't get much worse but from hearing stories from victims about their abuse in Allentown, it's going to make the Altoona-Johnstown report look mild," Rozzi said.
"The number of people that I know that want to testify clearly outweighs the number they were able to get in Altoona-Johnstown. I think you are really going to see some horrific stories of abuse that you didn't see in Altoona."