Response to "Cover-Up" Claim
Most Reverend Joseph V. Adamec
Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown
March 7, 2003
One of our community newspapers ran a series of articles against the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, in regard to the way that we have been addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors on the part of some of our priests. Those articles can give people two basic misconceptions. One is that these are new allegations. The other is that nothing was done in regard to the allegations. Neither one is true.
Let me begin by saying what I have said in my previous statement: it is regrettable that sexual and physical abuse of minors has occurred and that there are individuals continuing to suffer as a result. It is deplorable that sexual abuse of minors has occurred at the hands of priests within the Roman Catholic Church. I continue to assure the members of our Diocesan Church, as well as the public in general, that such behavior is unacceptable within the laws of the Roman Catholic Church and is not, and will not be, tolerated in this Diocese.
That having been said, there are several other things that need to be said.
1) We Bishops have committed ourselves to reporting to civil authorities cases that need to be reported. I voted for that and I subscribe to that. We continue to be in contact with the District Attorney. It is our understanding that he feels that we are in compliance with his expectations.
2) Just because the news media is not aware of an investigation and/or an action having been taken does not mean that none has. The CHARTER speaks of the need to take care to “protect the rights of all parties involved, particularly those of the person claiming to have been sexually abused and of the person against whom the charge has been made.” Dealing with matters prudently, confidentially, and charitably so as to respect those rights does not amount to a malicious cover-up.
3) No allegation of sexual abuse of a minor on the part of a priest having occurred during the past 15 years has ever been reported to me.
4) In the past, I have taken the advice of professional evaluators as to whether or not a case in regard to a particular priest is such that he would need to leave active ministry altogether. I have followed the advice of the professionals.
5) As a result of the CHARTER and the NORMS, to which we Bishops have subscribed, we are taking even more stringent steps today.
6) Currently, there are no priests in active ministry within this Diocesan Church against whom allegations have been substantiated. There are some against whom allegations have been made but have not been substantiated, despite active investigation.
7) We have assisted alleged victims with therapy in the past, and continue to do so in the present, whether or not their claims are substantiated “beyond the question of a doubt.”
The cases mentioned in the newspaper articles are not “new cases” but some that we have addressed in the past and some that we continue to investigate. This series of articles, I believe, was encouraged by what the newspaper calls “lay leadership”. It should be understood that these are members of the laity and they may be leaders; but, that is not to be understood as official leaders within the Church, particularly this Diocesan Church. I have sought, and continue to seek, advice from our diocesan lay and clergy councils in these and other matters.
The policy of this Diocesan Church is not to publicize names, especially those of victims, in cases such as this. However, since certain names have already become public through the mass media, I consider it appropriate to give a brief comment in regard to some.
JOSEPH BENDER was accused by an anonymous letter in August of 1991 of actions to have occurred prior to 1971. He began an evaluation of several sessions immediately. The professional evaluator advised me that Bender was not a danger at that point in time. On June 10, 1992, Bender relinquished his ministerial responsibilities. He died in August of 2000.
JAMES BUNN became a concern of mine in early 1988. I met with him several times. He underwent an evaluation (1988), the report of which stated that he was not a pedophile and not a threat to children. Allegations against Bunn came to me again in February of 2001. Members of my staff met with the family immediately after that. I met with Bunn and continued with the investigation. Bunn spent time at a treatment center. He has not been in public ministry since May of 2002.
THOMAS CARROLL met with me in January of 1988. We discussed allegations made against him. However, in the process of investigation, he became ill and died in the Fall of 1988.
DENNIS COLEMAN had already been relieved of public ministry by Bishop Hogan when I became the Diocesan Bishop. Shortly after my arrival, I suspended Coleman, barring him from priestly ministry all together. He remains suspended to this day.
JOSEPH GABOREK had accusations made against him prior to my becoming Diocesan Bishop. These were already being addressed by Bishop Hogan. Three months after becoming the Diocesan Bishop in 1987, I met with Gaborek several times and made arrangements for both in-patient and out-patient evaluation and therapy. He was placed on administrative leave. His attitude proved to be uncooperative. Consequently, he was suspended from priestly ministry in July of 1988, and remains in that status to the present. I have spoken on occasion by phone with members of the family, which had brought accusations against Gaborek.
BERNARD GRATTAN was accused in June of 1994 of inappropriate actions with a minor during the years of 1979-83. He was immediately asked to relinquish his ministerial duties. Grattan underwent in-patient evaluation and subsequent therapy of several months. Upon his return, he concluded his pastorate, meanwhile residing in a different rectory with another priest, subsequently given responsibilities as chaplain at a hospital. As of about a year ago, he no longer functions publicly as a priest nor resides in a rectory. The individual making the accusation was assisted by the Diocese in his therapy for the duration desired. I have met with him and with his parents several times.
LEONARD INMAN had been in treatment upon my becoming Diocesan Bishop. His placement for the purposes of monitoring were deliberate and in accord with professional advice. His assignment to public ministry ceased in August of 1989. Inman died in June of 2001.
ROBERT KELLY was accused in March of 1993 of inappropriate touching to have occurred around 1975-77. I communicated several times with both the alleged victim by phone and letter, and, with the parents by phone and face to face. Several professional evaluations failed to substantiate concern. Father Kelly has denied and continues to deny this allegation. During the process of extensive evaluation, Kelly served in administrative positions and resided in a rectory with limited ministerial responsibilities. (He did not “resume” his previous parish assignment, as is claimed.) In October of 1999, he was appointed pastor. The Diocese assisted the individual that made the accusation with therapy for a period of four years.
WILLIAM KOVACH was evaluated in 1988 at an in-patient institution following my having been informed of an allegation. The professional advice given me at the time was that, given the circumstances of the case, there was no need to limit his ministry. Kovach has not exercised public ministry since July 11, 2001.
FRANCIS LUDDY was sent (not “moved”) by Bishop Hogan for evaluation and therapy out of state to a religious community that specialized in that type of treatment. This was done in May of 1987, upon notice of inappropriate conduct. The matter of his attire did not come into question, as he was living and, subsequently, working within that religious community, not posing a danger to any persons outside. When that changed in 1993, I directed him not to present himself as a priest publicly, confirming what had been an understanding even before. Later, the Holy Father accepted my request that he be dismissed from the clerical state, even against his will. That occurred in 1998.
FRANCIS McCAA had already been removed from parish ministry by Bishop Hogan upon my becoming the Diocesan Bishop. Professional advice in those days was that offending individuals could continue in some non-parish ministry. In light of the recently-approved NORMS, that has changed. McCaa has not been permitted to function or present himself as a priest publicly since July of 1992.
MARTIN McCAMLEY has been accused of inappropriate actions dating back to 1968-1972. Since I have been apprised of these allegations, I and my staff have met with the family on several occasions. Several other allegations have been received recently. McCamley continues to deny these allegations. This investigation is continuing. He has been placed on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.
JAMES SKUPIEN came to my attention several months after I became Diocesan Bishop. The allegations did not have to do with minors. Again, in 1994, there were allegations made against him, dating back prior to 1987. These allegations did not come from any alleged victim and appeared rather general. Nevertheless, I followed up by speaking with him on several occasions, the first time on January 7, 1988, at which times he denied any involvement with minors. He participated in counseling and had been a resident at a treatment center. I received a letter in the Spring of 2002, accusing him of having abused a minor prior to 1987. However, Skupien had already died in February of 1996.
Let me say something in regard to individuals who identified themselves as victims at a recent news conference called by their attorney.
BRIAN GERGLEY made his case in regard to McCaa known to me in June of 2002. I responded to him and met with him and his mother, as well as spoke with him several times by phone since. Wishing to assist him in his therapy, the Diocese agreed to pay for his therapy sessions and medication, which it continues to do to this day.
KEVIN HOOVER is a former seminarian for the Diocese, leaving in 1991. His accusation against McCaa came by way of letter in 1997. Both my Vicar General and I met with Hoover and have been in communication with him. The Diocese began assisting him with the expense of therapy in the Fall of 1997.
JEFFREY LAFFERTY is known to us since 2001. Members of my staff, with whom he has been in contact, continue to seek some conclusion in the process of the “investigation”.
I wish to assure the public once again that the leadership of this Diocesan Church intends to protect minors from abuse by its clergy, employees, and volunteers. To this end, a training program called Protecting God’s Children has been in development for a number of years, long before the clergy scandals broke out last year. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has been a partner in this development through its membership in the National Catholic Risk Retention Group. The Diocese has had plans to put it into effect locally upon completion of its formulation. We are now in the final stages of putting Protecting God’s Children into place within the Diocese. The first training sessions took place last week.
I also wish to repeat what I said in my previous statement: A Diocesan Bishop cannot regret deeply enough, nor apologize often enough, over the fact that some clergy took advantage of minors under their spiritual care in a most inappropriate way, a way that has affected them for the rest of their lives. Nor can a Diocesan Bishop wish any more than we Bishops do today that we would have known what we now know about the treatment of offenders and victims. And, a Diocesan Bishop cannot but thank God for the countless good and dedicated priests that we have serving his Church, not to mention the understanding faithful of that Church, who realize that it is composed of sinful individuals striving to become holy.
But, no matter what or how much I do, it is not going to be the right thing or enough in everyone’s eyes. Nor, can we undo what may or may not have been done in the past. What we can do, should do, and are doing is to take the actions required of us today, on the basis of what we know today, whether that involves allegations from the present or the past. And, of course, we need to provide a safety net for our children in the future.
If there is an agenda other than promoting the welfare of God’s children in the series of newspaper articles to which we have been subjected, then we are all victims. But, be it known, that such will not derail me from acting appropriately (legally and morally) in regard to both the accuser and the accused.
I repeat once more that there have been no allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest of this Diocese having occurred since I became Bishop on May 20, 1987. The communities which comprise the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown can be assured that any allegation of a sexual abuse of a minor prior to 1987, of which I have been made aware, has been handled in an appropriate manner. For the safety of our children, for the healing of victims, and for the purification of our Church, I ask that those who have not yet shared with me allegations of sexual abuse of minors on the part of any one of the priests in this Diocesan Church to do so with the confidence that doing so is the right thing to do.