Bishop Accountability
 
  DIOCESE OF ALTOONA-JOHNSTOWN PA

Accused Priests: 27 (including 11 against whom allegations "were received but not able to be substantiated")
Total Priests: 640 (calculated from the percentage provided by Bishop Adamec, for which see below)
Victims and Alleged Victims: Approximately 48 (approximately 37 victims of the substantiated allegations, and likely at least 1 for each of the unsubstantiated ones)
Cost: $3,264,000 (of which $1,514,000 in judgments and compensation for victims; $1,628,000 for legal fees; $37,000 in counseling for victims; and $85,000 in counseling for accused priests)

Our number of accused priests differs from Cathy Lynn Grossman, Survey: More Clergy Abuse Cases Than Previously Thought (2/10/04) with AP table of data for 74 dioceses, because we include the 11 priests against whom allegations "were received but not able to be substantiated")

Bishop Joseph's Statement on the Release of the John Jay Study and the National Review Board Report

February 27, 2004

http://www.diocesealtjtn.org/news/index.html

First of all, let me echo Bishop Wilton Gregory, the President of our Conference … in thanking the men and women on the National Review Board for their hard work and dedication.

With the release of the John Jay Study and the Report by the Board today, some questions now have better answers. Much of the information has confirmed our fears.

Let me once more say how deeply sorry I am as priest and bishop that so many young people and children have been harmed and that so many of us in leadership have failed to protect them as we should have. I trust that the sad facts revealed in these reports are about our Church’s history, not about our present condition.

As the board points out, our best course in responding to the problem is to continue compliance with The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. I have pledged myself to that end.

In an effort to be as “transparent” as the Charter recommends, I have already released the data regarding our own Diocesan Church. I did this even though the local statistics were not going to be released to the public in the John Jay College Report. It seemed appropriate for our Catholic faithful to learn about our situation directly from me.

While we have made enormous progress in the last two years, for the victims of abuse, it has been too little and too late. In addition to my great regret for the pain victims of abuse have suffered … I extend to them an offer of our help, our support, and our prayers. I encourage them to come forward, if they have not already done so. We have established a way to support them through the Victims’ Advocate Sister Marilyn Welch (814-886-8250).

If you are interested in our local figures and have not seen them, they can be found on our web site (www.diocesealtjtn.org/news) in my Lenten and Advent Letters.

To see the entire John Jay Study and National Review Board Report go to usccb.org.

Lenten Pastoral Letter
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 22, 2004

http://www.diocesealtjtn.org/news/index.html#lenten

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Household of God,

Just as I felt a need to write to you during the Advent Season, I now do so again at the beginning of our Lenten observance. It appears that the Lord has chosen to make the holy seasons quite real and appropriately significant for us.

On February 27, an important report will be made public. This comes as a result of the Charter for the Protection of the Children and Young People. Through the Charter, a review board (now called the National Review Board and made up entirely of lay people) was established. We Bishops asked the Board to commission a study on the nature and scope of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clergy within the Catholic Church in the United States from 1950 through 2002. That report will contain information about how many clergy are alleged to have perpetrated sexual abuse of minors, how many victims there have been, and the financial costs involved nationwide. A separate report will attempt to make an initial assessment of causes.

The report of February 27 will not reference any local statistics. But, as you know, I have already informed you of our diocesan numbers in my Advent Pastoral letter. At that time, I promised information relative to our financial costs in those cases.

As I informed you in December, we have been able to determine that we have received and followed through on accusations affecting 16 priests, ministering within the Diocese during the time of the study. Of these, three are deceased. Eight are suspended from public priestly ministry. Four cases are currently being reviewed by the Holy See. One priest was dismissed from the clerical state. This represents 2.5% of the priests calculated to have served the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown during the fifty years covered by the national survey. These cases involve approximately 37 victims. In addition, allegations against eleven other priests were received but not able to be substantiated. Even in a number of those cases, we have made counseling and other services available to those bringing forth the charges.

We have found our records to show that the above cases required an expenditure of around $3,265,000. In order to interpret that figure more accurately, it helps to set the Luddy court case apart. The court judgment paid to Michael Hutchison in the Luddy case was $1,208,000. Our legal fees for that case have amounted to $1,326,000. Both of these amounts should be covered by insurance.

Our expenses in the cases involving the other 26 priests were as follows: $306,000 of insurance monies has been paid in victim compensation and another $302,000 in legal fees, also of insurance monies. In addition, about $37,000 has been paid in counseling fees for victims and another $85,000 covered the cost of counseling for accused priests. These later two are not covered by insurance.

While the financial costs have been burdensome for the Church, we need to think of the terrible cost of these crimes in terms of human suffering. No dollar amount can eliminate that pain. I am also concerned that there may be persons who need our help and support, and who have not yet come forward. I invite them to do so. We need to help them, as that is the only way that healing will occur. We also want to insure that our children will be safe in the future, by creating an environment that does not permit behaviors that put children at risk.

To that end, the following has been accomplished in our Diocesan Church. In 1987, we created a policy regarding improper ministerial behavior on the part of clergy, including the sin of sexual abuse of minors. That policy has been updated periodically and now includes inappropriate behavior on the Internet. We formed an Allegation Review Board, even before it was made mandatory. We are implementing a Safe Environment Program through Protecting God’s Children. I have appointed a Victims’ Advocate and a Victims’ Assistance Coordinator. Our Diocese was verified as being compliant with the CHARTER by the Gavin Group, which conducted the national audit.

Please keep in mind that the study to be released on February 27 covers a period of 50 years and is unprecedented. There is no comparable study of any other group. As in the past, Christ’s Church is able to deal with sin, even that which the recent revelations have made known to us. As difficult as all this has been, we can take some solace in the fact that no known substantiated incidences have occurred within our Diocesan Church during the past 20 years.

We cannot change history, but we can make every effort not to repeat it. Both the bishops and priests of our Church are sorrowfully aware that the misconduct to be detailed in the report is a complete contradiction of what the priest and bishop are meant to be, as well as what the Catholic people have a right to expect. Whatever the study reports about the number of victims and the number of abusers (out of the tens of thousands of priests of the last 50 years), there is a great predominance of dedicated deacons, priests, and bishops joining the Catholic Faithful in remaining authentic to their Christian calling. Nevertheless, we know that even one abuser and one victim is one too many. And, for that, no apology is enough.

Finally, as we enter this holy season of prayer and penance, please consider making every effort to attend one of the four Penance Services being planned for our Diocese during Lent. We will gather for the specific purpose of seeking forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation; particularly with regard to the sin of the sexual abuse of children and teenagers. Together in prayer and action, we can be the Church that God wants us to be. May it happen during this Lenten Season!

Fraternally Yours in the Lord,

(Most Rev.) Joseph V. Adamec
Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown


Advent Pastoral Letter
December 1, 2003

http://www.diocesealtjtn.org/news/index.html#advent

Dear Brothers and Sisters of our Diocesan Church,

As we observe the Season of Advent, I wish to share some thoughts with you the clergy, the religious, and the faithful of our Diocesan Church. This is a season of hope, a time when we look forward to the saving grace of the Father, who sent his Son into a world of sin. It is a time when we recall the preaching of John the Baptist for repentance and reformation. Putting his admonition into practice is a requisite for the proper welcoming of Jesus into our lives.

Needless to say, this has been a difficult time for the Church in the United States. Our own Diocesan Church of Altoona-Johnstown has not been exempt. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the Church has had to face and address a difficult situation, including inappropriate behavior within the ranks of its leadership. Advent is for real!

As you know, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops took the problem of the sexual abuse of minors on the part of a number of priests seriously and responded by adopting their CHARTER for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Spring of 2002. A year later, in order to check on compliance with the CHARTER, an onsite audit is being conducted in every one of the dioceses in the United States.

At the same time, a national survey is being taken in order to determine the scope of the problem. Such information will help in coming up with an effective solution. Each diocese is being asked to submit information relative to allegations that it has received since 1950.

The National Review Board, established by the bishops of the United States, will issue a report on the results of the audits in January. A report on the national survey will be made in February.

Due to the fact that these were national initiatives to which we were asked to contribute, I did not consider it my prerogative at the time to report on the scope of our participation. As we near the dates of the national reports, I wish to apprise you now of our portion of the national picture that will be reported in January and February.

In regard to the audit, we were given two instructions. They consisted of directions to change certain wording in our policy documentation, in order to correspond more accurately to how we were actually responding to allegations. In other words, we were responding appropriately, but our documentation did not appear to indicate that clearly. After making those adjustments, we received a letter indicating that this Diocese is in full compliance with the CHARTER for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Our records show that we have received and followed through on accusations affecting 16 priests, ministering within the Diocese during the past fifty years. Of these, three are deceased. Eight are suspended from public priestly ministry. Four cases are currently being reviewed by the Holy See. One priest was dismissed from the clerical state. This represents 2.5% of the priests calculated to have served the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown during the fifty years covered by the national survey. These cases involve approximately 37 victims. In addition, allegations against eleven other priests were not able to be substantiated, four of them due to the fact that the priests were already deceased at the time of the allegation. The foregoing includes both diocesan and extern priests ministering within the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

It is important to understand that the alleged inappropriate actions on the part of the priests accused are not of the same degree in all cases. Likewise, in some instances the inappropriate action took place once. In others it may have been repeated. Some offences involved several individuals, while others involved one.

There have been no substantiated incidences occurring in the past twenty years and only one allegation of an unsubstantiated incident occurring during that time. Even though the reports of incidences from the past have increased in recent years, the number of actual incidences during this time has decreased substantially. To my knowledge, there are no priests of our Diocese with substantiated allegations functioning in public priestly ministry anywhere.

The hurt that victims and their families have suffered is incalculable. The Diocese has offered counseling in response to credible allegations, and even in cases when the allegation may not be entirely credible. We have in place both a Victims’ Advocate and a Victims’ Assistance Coordinator. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has initiated a program called Protecting God’s Children, whose purpose is to provide a safe environment for our youth. It involves mandatory training for all employees and volunteers who work with children.

A number of the alleged victims who are a part of recent civil litigation against me and the Diocese have made their allegation for the first time, and that in the form of a lawsuit. Some of them did come forward in the past, by contacting me or someone on my staff. Several received therapy assistance from the Diocese. Some continue to do so.

Sister Marilyn Welch, CCW, administers the Protecting God’s Children program in our Diocesan Church. She provides advocacy for the victims of sexual abuse who seek to be reconciled with the Church and desire assistance with their healing. Each situation is handled with sensitivity and respect. Our response as a Diocesan Church continues to conform to the mandates of the CHARTER, as well as to the requirements of civil law.

I continually offer on behalf of the Church sincere apologies for the hurt that some of our ordained ministers have inflicted upon the youth. There is no way in which that can be undone. All that can be done is to be about the process of healing. I want to be instrumental in that. Whether or not there has been contact in the past, whether or not there was an acceptable response at that time, I invite any person who may have been sexually abused by anyone representing this Diocese to seek pastoral assistance through either Sister Marilyn Welch as the Victims’ Advocate (814-886-8250) or anyone in the Bishop’s Office (814-695-5579).

We understand addiction in a much better way today than we did some years ago. This includes not only the bishops of the Church but professional evaluators, law enforcement agencies, and the mass media. In this Diocesan Church, we followed up on allegations in accord with our diocesan policy and dealt with them in accord with the professional advice that we received at that time.

The problem of sexual abuse of minors is not solely a church problem. It is a societal problem. The Roman Catholic Church in the United States has taken up the challenge of addressing the situation in a radical way. It may be the only major entity to do so and, in that regard, is pioneering the way. That is not said by way of excuse or praise, but as a statement of fact.

There is, of course, a financial cost associated with the addressing of these abuses of the past. Victims have received assistance of various kinds, mostly counseling for their healing, but also settlements in a very few cases. Some priests have received evaluation and/or therapy. Legal fees have been necessary, mostly for one publicized case. Most of our legal fees and settlement costs are expected to have reimbursement from various insurers, but have been paid in advance from the diocesan Insurance Fund. The other costs for therapy of both victims and priests have been paid from a medical account in the General Fund of the Diocese.

Our Diocesan Church has been wounded, and certain parish faith communities within it are hurting to a great degree. But, Spring surely follows Winter. The season of renewal often takes on the appearance of a time of destruction. What appears to be “the end” can be “an end” for the improvement or even resolution of a situation. What the crucifixion of Christ appeared to be was not what it truly was. Life came about as a result of death, victory as a result of adversity. And, so it must be with the Church and with us who comprise it: the victims, the perpetrators, and all the rest of us.

As Disciples on Mission, a renewal of the Church must begin with us. I invite the clergy, religious, and laity of our Diocesan Church to make this Advent Season a time of serious preparation for the greater and more visible reality that is the Reign of Christ. As one of the Advent Antiphons exhorts: “Let us cleanse our hearts for the coming of our great King, that we may be ready to welcome him; He is coming and will not delay.”

We have in our Diocesan Church a preponderance of good and faithful priests and deacons. Even though not to the same degree as the victims, they, too, have been hurt by the actions of their brothers in ordained ministry. In the midst of it all, they continue to minister faithfully to the Lord’s people, following the example of the Reverend Prince Demetrius A. Gallitzin. In my gratitude to them, I appeal in a special way to our clergy.

The call into an ordained life is a call into a way of life that has to be different from the life of the non-ordained. Our lives need to be ordained so as to be an extension of the very life of Christ. As ordained men, we are not merely representing Christ; but, have been called to stand in his place in our time and space.

We need to recognize service to God’s people as constitutive of who we are. It is a priestly service, one in which we are not only the priest but the victim, as well as the altar on which our victimhood takes place. Christ’s life in us takes the path that He took, which, necessarily, includes the way of the cross.

In order to remain faithful to our call, we need to be open to our own reformation. Let us hear the words of John the Baptist this Advent Season in a way that is much deeper than it has been in the past. The scandalous situation that we are facing in the Church today is the result of personal sin. As in the case of the faithful that we lead, a regular confessor and spiritual director is indispensable to a continual reformation of ourselves.

Those who are no longer allowed to exercise their priestly ministry need our support as brothers. Likewise, we need their understanding of the current situation and status in which they find themselves, even as we reach out to those who have been harmed. All of us are sisters and brothers of the one Lord, in need of forgiveness and healing in one form or another.

The world is not always a welcoming place for the disciples of Christ. Those who continue in active ministry, especially, need to be of support to each other. We recently read in the Divine Office a passage from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:2b-4): “Maintain your unanimity, possessing the one love, united in spirit and ideals. Never act out of rivalry or conceit; rather, let all parties think humbly of others as superior to themselves, each of you looking to others’ interests rather than his own.” That, at times, involves our taking upon ourselves the unpleasant task of correcting error or even sin on the part of a brother priest or deacon.

It is my humble perception that the current situation of the Church in the United States is not so much a crisis of the Church as it is a crisis of individual faith in the Church. While unity of the entire community is called for at all times in the Church, that is especially true at a time of difficulty. This is such a time. I am tremendously encouraged by our Faithful and their continued understanding of and dedication to the Church as the assembly into which the Lord gathers us as his own. Their strong faith does not appear to be shaken by the human frailty of their priests.

Let us go forth from this Season of Advent into an enduring Christmas, ready to welcome the presence of Christ among us. May we afford him lodging within our very selves, allowing his mission for the good of God’s people to continue through his Holy Spirit in this place and in this, our time. That will, then, truly be a time of redemption and an authentic Christmas in these Allegheny Mountains.

Fraternally yours in the Lord,

(Most Rev.) Joseph V. Adamec
Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown

 

 
 

Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
     
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