Dougherty Plans to Keep Fighting for Victims of Child Sex Abuse
By Marty Radovanic
November 18, 2016
[Part 1: Johnstown man confronts past of sexual abuse by priest]
A state grand jury continues its investigation of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church.
Agents of the attorney general recently raided the offices of the diocese of Erie, collecting boxes of documents.
Whispers of abuse have been prevalent in the Catholic Church for years.
That whisper became a roar when the grand jury announced its findings of widespread abuse in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
When the grand jury report was released in March, Shaun Dougherty says he knew it was time for him to go public, to make sure what happened to him would not happen to another child.
He reached out to a longtime friend, state Rep. Frank Burns, who in turn introduced him to Rep. Mark Rozzi, who says he had been molested by a priest as a child.
That led to an exhaustive interview with the Harrisburg Patriot-News. That story appeared in the paper three days after the interview.
“I gotta tell you, those were the longest three days of my life,” Dougherty said of the lobby interview. “I was so anxious. I didn’t know. you don’t know, `Are you going to be supported or are people going to be, you know, ah, Daugherty. you're just grandstanding, or is this just some guy who is trying to make noise, trying to jump on somebody else's coattails, to make a buck.’
Dougherty has made it his own personal mission not only to fight back against future acts of child sex abuse within the church, but to find some way of getting retribution for the victims, who are people like him.
He'll talk to anybody. He'll go anywhere. That's why for the past several months he's spent a lot of time at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg.
Dougherty has been lobbying hard for House Bill 1947, a proposed law that would allow sexual abuse victims to retroactively seek damages for the crimes against them, crimes in which the criminal statute of limitations has expired.
Despite being overwhelmingly approved in the state House, the state Senate stripped the retroactivity clause from the bill.
But the legislature failed to take action on the bill before adjourning for the year. It is an inaction Dougherty and others lay at the feet of the Pro Tempore Sen. Joseph Scarnati of Jefferson County.
The Republican leader of the Senate says that bill is unconstitutional.
Scarnati refuses to meet with Dougherty, Rozzi and other victims, until he walked out of his office and into the outstretched hand of Dougherty.
“I reached out to Scarnati to ask why he won’t meet with alleged victims, and he wouldn’t respond,” Dougherty said.
“All I want to tell you, and I’m on camera, (is) thank you,” Scarnati said.
Now-defrocked priest George Koharchik was moved out of St. Clement church and sent to a new assignment at a church and school in Portage.
Dougherty says Monsignor Joseph O’Toole made arrangements for Dougherty and other boys to pack up Koharchik’s room.
Dougherty said he was recently called by another man who says he had been abused by Koharchik at St. Clement. That man told Dougherty that transfer happened because of the alleged abuse.
“He was being transferred for sexually abusing children and I was permitted to spend the night in the new rectory,” Dougherty said. “He wasn’t transferred to a treatment facility. He wasn’t transferred to a jail. He wasn’t transferred to a court. He was transferred to a new school and kids from the old school were allowed to go to the old school and spend the night.”
Dougherty believes O’Toole and Bishop James Hogan both know what was going on, yet didn’t stop it.
“Yes, he was moved in my opinion based on the information that I now know for sexual assault,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty was born and raised a Catholic. He said he has not been inside a Catholic church since his father’s funeral in 2014.
He has doubts about all he was taught in his faith. He's not sure he even believes in God.
“I don’t think I would be able to speak,” Dougherty said, “I think I would just burst into tears, I really do. I’d just burst into tears. You have no idea how this (abuse) affects a person for as long as it does.
“I think the only words I would possibly be able to say is, ‘Why me?’”
Dougherty will be back in Harrisburg when the new legislative session begins in January.
While he will never be able to forget what happened to him, he said he will be able to close that part of his life. But he will only be able to do that after the law is changed to give him and so other victims of clergy sexual abuse the right to get someone to pay for what happened to him.