Don't Jump to Conclusions

The Tribune-Democrat
August 29, 2012

— Another sad and shocking news report about child sexual abuse made its way onto one of our front pages last weekend.

Like us, our readers, too, must be asking, what is going on? These senseless, sick criminal acts are happening all too frequently across our region.

And the case to which we now refer involves a longtime spiritual leader, a priest in the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese.

The priest, the Rev. George Koharchik, 63, has been relieved by the diocese of his duties at a Huntingdon County parish. It has been alleged that he sexually molested "young boys" at a parish in Cambria County more than 30 years ago.

Koharchik was born in Windber, raised in Johns­town, graduated in 1966 from Bishop McCort Catholic High School and served parishes including in suburban Johnstown and Portage.

His leave, according to diocesan officials, was ordered pending the outcome of a criminal investigation in the hands of the Cambria County district attorney's office.

"It's important to note that these are just allegations," Tony DeGol, diocese secretary of communications, said on Friday.

We agree. At this point, they are just allegations and no one should jump to conclusions.

"We don't have a lot of information. Until more information can be gathered we won't be able to say much," Beth Bolton Penna, assistant DA, told our Kathy Mellott.

Troubling, obviously, is that the accusations have surfaced three decades after the sexual abuse allegedly took place. It's also troubling that the accusations come long after a spate of criminal activity involving priests became public in the local and other dioceses.

We urge the district attorney's office to keep the public apprised of its ongoing investigation.

We also commend the diocese for sharing with the media – and the public – the allegations and its actions in suspending the priest.

Meanwhile, Koharchik, not surprisingly, has received solid support from past and present parishioners and other friends in comments to The Tribune-Democrat website.

"Children are a precious gift from God, and we must always take the necessary steps to ensure their protection in the Catholic Church," diocesan Bishop Mark L. Bartchak said in a 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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