Accused Priest Jumps to Death

By Phil Ray
Altoona Mirror [Pennsylvania]
June 26, 2007

A 64-year-old priest under investigation by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown for child sexual abuse dating back 36 years jumped to his death off the McNally Bridge in Richland Township, Cambria County.

William A. Rosensteel died from multiple injuries caused by the 190-foot drop from the bridge on Route 219 over Stonycreek River, Cambria County Coroner Dennis Kwiatkowski said.

Rosensteel was not dressed as a priest at the time of his death at 7:43 p.m. Sunday, Kwiatkowski said.

Although Rosensteel, whose last station was at Holy Rosary Parish at 900 Fourth St., Juniata, Altoona, did not leave a note, Kwiatkowski said he believed the suicide "has to do with what he was experiencing."

Rosensteel was placed on administrative leave from Holy Rosary March 6, a little more than a month after the child molestation charges were made against him.

The man who made the accusations said the incidents occurred from 1971-72 when he served as an 11-year-old altar boy for Rosensteel at St. Patrick's Parish in Johnstown.

The diocese, through a statement from Bishop Joseph V. Adamec, informed its 80,000 parishioners Sunday of the charges against Rosensteel.

That statement, published in the weekend's Catholic Register, said the accuser followed protocol by meeting with the Diocesan Allegation Review Board.

The board was created by Adamec several years ago in response to the mounting allegations against priests, as indicated by more than 20 lawsuits filed in the Blair County Courthouse.

Civil authorities were informed about the charges. Adamec, in his statement, said the charges were sent to Holy See's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for final determination.

"The Faithful are asked to remember Father Rosensteel in their prayers and to withhold judgment until the investigations are completed. He continues on leave, not functioning in any public ministry," the statement read.

Diocesan priests Sunday asked parishioners to come forward if they also had been abused by Rosensteel or others.

Blair County attorney Richard Serbin said the review board found the charges against Rosensteel credible, and an out-of-court settlement was reached.

Adamec Monday issued a statement concerning Rosensteel's death through Catholic Register Editor Father Tim Stein.

"Bishop Joseph is deeply saddened by the news about Father William Rosensteel. It is difficult to comprehend a priest taking the action that he did.

"While Father Rosensteel was facing allegations from the past, those allegations were being processed through appropriate channels and in a way consistent with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

"There was hope that the final determination would allow him to retire with some type of ministry," Adamec's statement read.

Serbin said he was saddened to hear Rosensteel had taken his life, but he praised the diocese for its response to the latest child sexual abuse charge.

The diocese notified the public and authorities about the situation, steps that in the past would not have occurred, Serbin said.

No one from Holy Rosary Parish was available Monday for comment. Rosensteel also served at St. Patrick Parish in Gallitzin, St. Patrick Parish in Newry and St. Mary Parish in Altoona.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468 or


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