JAN 1, 2017
Reassessment in Blair County and sexual abuse by church officials were among the top local stories of 2016.
The Mirror’s news staff voted in mid-December on the top stories from a ballot that contained 31 prominent local news items. The following is a look at the top stories, as chosen by the Mirror news staff: …
2. Sexual abuse by church officials
On March 1, then-Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said that hundreds of children were sexually abused by about 50 priests or church officials over more than 40 years in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese, and some bishops attempted to cover up the crimes.
Kane stopped in Altoona to reveal the results of an extensive statewide grand jury investigation into child sexual abuse associated with the local diocese.
When they were in office, Bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec used their influence to get reports from victims or their parents, stymie police investigations and ward off inquiries by powerful court officials, Kane said. Adamec even created a chart outlining potential payments for victims based on the type of sexual abuse, the grand jury found.
The grand jury found it was Adamec’s practice not to call police when dealing with child sexual abuse cases involving priests or others.
Kane said 50 diocesan priests over the last 40 years or more have been identified as committing horrendous acts against hundreds of children.
Investigators reviewed more than 115,000 documents, many of them acquired by search warrants from diocesan “secret archives.”
Canon law requires each diocese to maintain such archives, she explained.
As of that point, Kane said, none of the criminal acts outlined in the grand jury report can be prosecuted.
In some cases, the perpetrators were deceased. In other cases, the victims were so traumatized that they could not testify in court, and in many cases, the statute of limitations, which can run up to 30 years for criminal cases, had expired. The grand jury recommended that the state Legislature do away with the statute of limitations.
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