Priest Kills Self After Bishop’s Letter

By Paul Likoudis
The Wanderer
July 12, 2007

A well-liked, highly-regarded priest of the Diocese of Altoona­Johnstown killed himself by jumping off the highest bridge in Cambria County after Bishop Joseph Adamec informed the 80,000 Catholics under his jurisdiction that an investigation of the priest was underway for a 36-year-old allegation of sexual molestation.

Fr. William A. Rosensteel, 64, jumped 190 feet to his death at 7: 43 p.m. on Sunday, June 24, after Bishop Adamec issued a letter saying the priest had been accused of abusing an altar boy in 1971 while he was pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Johnstown, and had been placed on administrative leave in March of this year. Bishop Adamec published the letter in the June 25 issue of the diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Register, and asked all priests serving in parishes where Fr. Rosensteel had served throughout his priesthood to read the letter during Sunday Mass, reported the Altoona Mirror.

The Mirror also reported that the Rosensteel’s “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 priests of the diocese are very upset about Adamec’s action,” said a local Catholic. “He has never done anything like this before. The priest was a good priest, and the allegations against him shocked everyone, and we don’t know if the allegations against him are true or not, but Adamec said he was just following the Charter.”

The Charter is the response of the U.S. bishops to the eruption of clerical abuse scandals that became public in Boston and spread across the country in January 2002.

The funeral Mass for Fr. Rosensteel was scheduled for Friday June 29, and Bishop Adamec did not attend at the request of the deceased priest’s family.

In his column in the diocesan newspaper, dated June 25, Bishop Adamec, a priest of the Diocese of Saginaw, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Vatican’s announcement that he was named bishop of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese.

In 1996, The Wanderer published a six-week series on Bishop Adamec’s “reign of terror” in the diocese, his persecution of priests and his malicious treatment of concerned laity who objected to his lavish personal lifestyle, his tolerance of liturgical abuses, the cultivation of his cult of personality and the dubious selection of seminarians.

In the course of the series of articles, allegations were made that Bishop Adamec had purchased his bishopric, with a multi-million dollar donation to the building of the U.S. bishops’ new headquarters in Washington, D.C. near the campus of the Catholic University of America. Allegedly, Adamec obtained the funds through the Slovak Federation. The allegations published by The Wanderer received no official response, but at that year’s meeting of the conference of bishops, the bishops spent most of their executive session discussing punitive actions against The Wanderer for publishing the expose on Adamec.


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