Foster says bishop turning blind eye

By Russ O'reilly
Altoona Mirror
May 3, 2016

A Catholic layman who aided a state investigation into sexual abuse in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown said Bishop Mark L. Bartchak isn't interested in addressing allegations involving corruption of additional clergy not mentioned in the grand jury report.

"The Attorney General's report was just the tip of the iceberg," local businessman George Foster said.

The grand jury report issued by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane in February states that former Bishop Joseph Adamec largely ignored or downplayed Foster's reports of priestly misconduct with minors that he gathered from victims of the abuse.

Foster has encountered a similar response from Bartchak, he wrote in a paid advertisement published in Sunday's Mirror.

Diocese spokesman Tony DeGol said a response to Foster's allegations will come today.

In the wake of the grand jury report that documented abuses of dozens of priests and religious leaders over the past 40 years, Bartchak promised to "publish a list of priests who have been subject of credible allegations."

Foster said he has knowledge that Bartchak is choosing not to investigate. And Bartchak's inaction allows corruption to breed, Foster said.

"The problem we have now, is that the Attorney General's Office only addressed priests who they had information on at the time who would be a risk to children. They did not address priests who have been misbehaving in the diocese."

For example, he said, sources have told him about priests in love triangles with clergy who were named in the grand jury report as child molesters though they themselves were not sexually involved with the child in the triangle.

In other cases, priests were to have made online transactions for sex. In another case, a priest allegedly slept with another man who sought counseling from him, "to show him that sleeping with a man is OK," he said.

"In Catholicism, these are reasons to remove priests and religious leaders. They are criminal activity in the Catholic world, and they are the same people that hide child molesters or participate in that activity, or hide some other things that's going wrong in the church," Foster said.

Foster has been stoking a need to purge the diocese of child-molesting and sexually active priests since about 2000 when he began investigating rumors bubbling within the local Catholic community.

Some of those rumors involved Monsignor Thomas Mabon, his wife's uncle.

Asked whether he treated Mabon any differently than other accused priests, he laughed.

"I have a Mabon file an inch thick. I confronted him. Mabon denied it. I told him, 'You will be banned from this house if you are lying.'"

Bishop Adamec, he said, even tried to use that family connection to stop Foster's investigation.

"Bishop Joseph used it as one of his ways to get me to stop. He removed Mabon and said to him 'This is your nephew's fault because he won't stop this.'"

All of Foster's records that were largely ignored by Adamec, he said, were subpoenaed by the Attorney General.

Investigators also seized archives from the diocesan chancery.

According to the grand jury report, approximately 115,042 documents were removed from administrative offices of the diocese. Those files led investigators to conclude there were at least 50 priests and religious who were child molesters.

But to divide those pages by the 50 priests and others named in the report would mean the diocese had 2,300 pages for each one. And that is not likely, Foster said.

Hidden in those 115,000 pages are likely to be more priests and religious leaders in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, inactive and active, who parishioners would not want around their children, Foster said.

On Monday, Deputy Attorney General Dan Dye said he was limited to discussing the investigation because the Office of Attorney General is obligated to investigate violations of criminal law only.

"George Foster's ad is not a product of our investigation. It is something he has sought to pursue in regards to the diocese," he said.

"We are tasked with enforcing criminal law. If it falls outside of that, then it's not something we would be addressing," he said.

"In any grand jury investigation we are limited to what we can discuss," he said.



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