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  Men Allege Diocesan Officials Concealed Abuse

By Mike Joseph
Centre Daily Times
March 5, 2003

ALTOONA -- A State College man said in court papers Tuesday that for two years as an altar boy he was sexually molested by an Our Lady of Victory priest who is now pastor of the only Roman Catholic church in Philipsburg.

Anthony M. Coray, of 810 Stratford Drive, made the statement at a news conference in an Altoona law office, where he and another alleged victim in a separate case announced that they have sued the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, its bishop, Joseph V. Adamec, and Adamec's predecessor for fraudulently concealing the abuse.

Coray, in his civil complaint, says that the Rev. Robert Kelly, while a priest at the State College church a quarter century ago, sexually abused him on numerous occasions, from 1975 to 1977, when Coray was about 12 to 14 years old.

A civil complaint presents only one side of an issue. Kelly could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but diocese spokeswoman Sister Mary Parks said in a statement prepared after the news conference that Kelly denies the allegations.

Coray said in a prepared statement: "The sexual molestation I experienced at the hands of Father Kelly left me feeling betrayed and ashamed. For, as painful as it was, the most devastating part of my encounters with Father Kelly was not the violation of my body, but the damage to my soul."

The abuse took place in the rectory of Our Lady of Victory Church, 820 Westerly Parkway, as well as in a movie theater and near a fire tower in the mountains of Centre County, Coray said in the complaint, which was filed Tuesday in Blair County Court.

According to the complaint, Kelly felt over Coray's body, massaged his upper thighs and crotch, put his hand down Coray's shirt, and pressed his pelvis into Coray's buttocks and his face into Coray's neck.

Kelly also gave alcohol to Coray and afterward asked Coray to go to bed with him, according to the complaint.

Coray, now 39 years old, is a 1981 State College Area High School graduate, an independent filmmaker and a former freelance arts writer for the Centre Daily Times.

Kelly, now 55, is the pastor and only priest at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Philipsburg, a parish that serves 465 families.

Richard Serbin, lawyer for Coray and the other alleged victim, Paul D. Claar, 37, said the state's statute of limitations makes a criminal complaint impossible against Kelly and the other priest, the Rev. Bernard Grattan, formerly of Newry and now of Johnstown.

"Both of these priests escaped criminal liability," Serbin told reporters.

Serbin repeatedly referred to Kelly and Grattan as "predator priests."

Parks said the diocese became aware of Coray's allegations against Kelly in March 1993 and that "several professional evaluations failed to substantiate concern." Parks characterized the behavior de scribed in the complaint as "inappropriate touching."

She said the diocese has no plans to place Kelly on administrative leave, as it did Friday with the Rev. Martin McCamley, the pastor of Our Lady of Victory. McCamley, 66, has been accused of sexually abusing another young boy more than three decades ago in another case. McCamley has denied the accusations.

Despite repeated requests, the diocese did not provide timeline information about Kelly's assignments. A parishioner at Our Lady of Victory, which numbers 2,000 families in its congregation, said it was her recollection that Kelly was assigned there at least until the early 1990s.

Coray's complaint claims the diocese should have known about Kelly's inappropriate conduct with children before he first molested Coray. The complaint says the diocese sent Kelly away for evaluation and treatment and then Kelly resumed his previous assignment.

The diocese on Tuesday de nied that Kelly had resumed duties at Our Lady of Victory.

"During the process of extensive evaluation, Kelly served in administrative positions and resided in a rectory with limited ministerial responsibilities," Parks said in her statement.

Parks also said that Adamec communicated with Coray by telephone and letters since 1993, met with his parents, and "assisted" with Coray's therapy for four years.

The diocese put Kelly in charge of the Philipsburg parish in October 1999. Kelly celebrates three weekend Masses and performs several weekday morning Masses. He plans to celebrate two Ash Wednesday Masses today, church secretary Laurie Wasilko said Tuesday.

Although Coray refused to answer reporters' questions at Tuesday's news conference, the other alleged victim, Claar, of 410 Bayton Ave., Altoona, did so. He said in his complaint that he was molested by Grattan for four years, starting at age 12, when Grattan was a priest at St. Patrick's Church in Newry, Blair County.

"I'm here today to just to let everyone know that this is not something I came forward with today," Claar said. "This is something I revealed to the diocese over 10 years ago, and, to this day, they have done absolutely nothing about it."

Claar added: "I spoke to the bishop -- I brought my situation to the bishop on June 17, 1994, and he assured me that everything would be taken care of."

Since then, Claar said, "we've had conversations, but it was always that he was taking care of everything."

"He assured me that Father Grattan would be evaluated and then he would make a decision as to what he would do with him," Claar said. "And I learned that he moved him around and at one point even moved him to my sister's parish."

A few minutes later, when lawyer Serbin was describing both Coray and Claar as devout altar boys and pointing out that Claar used to voluntarily mow the lawn at St. Patrick's, Claar broke down, bowed his head into the palm of his right hand, and wept.

The diocesan response Tuesday said Grattan "no longer functions publicly as a priest nor resides in a rectory." The diocese also said that Adamec has written a lengthy statement about these issues that it will put the statement up on its Web site this weekend.

The Web site address is www.diocesealtjtn.org/news.

Coray, in his prepared statement, said he was making "this betrayal of trust" public because he is committed to ending such abuse. He added:

"The evil that motivates these acts thrives because of the secrecy that shrouds them: Secrecy, reinforced by shame that buries deep within a young boy's psyche his memory of being molested, until years later, when he begins searching for the roots of his emotional problems -- and remembers.

"Whatever become of this case," Coray said, "I fervently hope the attention it brings -- the breaking down of this secrecy -- will in some way make it easier for children who are even now being molested to tell someone they trust, and perhaps prevent other children from being abused."

 
 

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