Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese puts two priests on leave amid sex abuse allegations

By Lauren Hensley
February 08, 2016

[with video]

ALTOONA, Pa.-- The Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese said two more priests are on leave, each facing allegations of child sex abuse.

This brings the total to three suspended priests in just over a month. Each case involves allegations made decades ago.

Sunday Bishop Mark Bartchak announced Sunday the Rev. David Arseneault seen from Huntingdon's Holy Trinity and the Rev. James Coveney, who is retired from Saint Mark's Church in Altoona, have both been placed on leave from the ministry.

They are two priests accused in two separate incidents, but the church said they have one thing in common, the accusations date back about 20 years. Why is the church now choosing to review these accusations?

"I can't answer that question but obviously Bishop Bartchak feels it is important to review these cases," said Tony DeGol, secretary for communications.

6News sought to question the bishop directly but we were told he was unavailable.

Details are limited about the accusations but the church confirms it involves children.

"In both cases they involve sexual misconduct involving young people," DeGol said.

The church isn't saying when the allegations were first reported and examined by the diocese. For one victim advocacy group this doesn't sit well.

"He's only stressing that some of the crimes happened a long time ago. The second thing he said is that he must re-examine these reports. So that means he has had them for a while. We just don't have enough information," said Barbara Dorris with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP.

SNAP's website said it's the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. It said putting the two priests on leave isn't enough and is calling for the bishop to release more information, in hopes more details could help more people come forward.

"It also gives other survivors permission to tell, so that they can come forward and begin to get some help," Dorris said.

6News contacted the Attorney General's Office, which could not confirm or deny if it is investigating.

Church officials said their investigation is ongoing. No charges have been filed.


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