By Arthur McCaffrey
I hope the good people of southwestern Pennsylvania have enough patience left to tolerate further commentary on their recent shock and sorrow: the state grand jury report on sexual abuse by clergy in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese, which justifiably labeled decades of child abuse as “soul murder.”
I know the wounds. As an outsider and a New England Catholic who suffered through the meltdown of the Boston Archdiocese in 2002, perhaps I can bring a fresh perspective to this well-worn story. I certainly could do no worse than the current Altoona-Johnstown bishop, Mark Bartchak, who wrote to his parishioners that the grand jury evidence was “filled with the darkness of sin.”
What, no acknowledgement of criminality?
I’m afraid that Bishop Bartchak wears the cope of history on his shoulders: FBI data show that, going back almost three-quarters of a century to the 1940s, he is the heir to four bishops, at least 46 abusive priests and hundreds of child victims.
The grand jury report’s 147 pages have many lessons to teach us, but its main message can be summarized in seven words: deference spawns collusion spawns cover-up spawns victims.
This reduction to essentials is not a slight to the gravity or complexity of the grand jury narrative. Rather, it is a thoughtful attempt to identify the major diagnostic markers which can help us better understand the cause-effect dynamics that drive this kind of long-running crime spree.
Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.