Diocese Investigates Sexual Misconduct Claims

By Altoona Mirror
Zach Geiger
August 25, 2012

A Huntingdon County priest has been removed from active ministry after allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors were reported to church officials, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown said.

The Rev. George D. Koharchik, 63, was placed on leave from his position as pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Mount Union, Tony DeGol, diocese secretary for communications, said on Friday.

Multiple individuals approached the diocese to report alleged sexual misconduct by Koharchik, DeGol said.

The alleged incidents occurred as far back as 30 years ago during Koharchik's time as a priest at various Cambria County parishes, DeGol said.

All of the individuals were minors at the time of the alleged incidents, he said.

DeGol declined to comment on the number of individuals who have stepped forward or to name the specific parishes where the alleged incidents occurred.

"Right now, it is important to note that these are just allegations," DeGol said.

The diocese notified the Cambria County District Attorney's Office of the allegations late Thursday evening, officials said.

The office will continue to work with the diocese to determine if criminal charges should be filed against Koharchik, Assistant District Attorney Beth Bolton Penna said.

The office has not yet launched an official investigation because none of the alleged victims have come forward to either the DA or law enforcement, Bolton Penna added.

No criminal charges have been filed against Koharchik as of Friday, online court records show.

Koharchik graduated from Bishop McCort Catholic High School in 1966 and was ordained to priesthood in May 1974 after studying at St. Francis University, according to information published on his Facebook profile page.

His profile was edited on Friday to read that Koharchik left his job at the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

According to information listed on his public profile, Koharchik previously served as a Catholic chaplain at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, but no additional employment records were listed.

Diocese officials suspended weekday Mass at the St. Catherine of Siena parish, where Koharchik served as head priest, as the diocese investigated the allegations, DeGol said.

None of the alleged incidents occurred during Koharchik's tenure in Huntingdon County, he said.

A series of visiting priests will lead weekend services at the church, and a temporary administrator will be appointed to oversee the parish, DeGol added.

"Obviously, this is a difficult situation for the parish," DeGol said. "The bishop is committed to having a new priest there as soon as possible."

Diocese officials plan to discuss Koharchik's status with the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The diocese's report would not interfere with any possible jurisdiction or investigation from the DA's office, according to a press release from the diocese.

"Children are a precious gift from God, and we must always take the necessary steps to ensure their protection in the Catholic Church," Bishop Mark L. Bartchak said in a written statement. "I pray for the alleged victims in this case and for all children who have suffered sexual abuse in our society."









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