Pennsylvania Grand Jury Finds Catholic Bishops Hid Hundreds of Abuse Cases

PennsylvaniaAnother Pennsylvania grand jury issued a scathing report on the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church. Unlike the previous grand jury reports in Philadelphia, this report investigated child sex abuse and exploitation, and the negligence of bishops, in the small diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Altoona-Johnstown serves approximately 100,000 Catholics in 89 parishes. Its small size compared to the other dioceses in Pennsylvania made it an unlikely candidate for a grand jury investigation. But the grand jury’s investigation led to an astonishing number of sexual abuse cases and an extensive cover up by the Altoona-Johnstown bishops.

In announcing the findings, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said the diocese’s two previous bishops “placed their desire to avoid public scandal over the well-being of children.”

The report was especially critical of Bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec. Hogan, who headed the diocese from 1966 to 1986, died in 2005. Adamec, who succeeded him, retired in 2011.

Bishop Ademec refused to testify before the grand jury for fear of self-incrimination.

The Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report revealed that child sex abuse went on for decades and occurred in churches, campsites, an orphanage, and even during confession. Priests accused of these crimes were merely transferred to other churches, one was even transferred to a school for boys.

Unlike the second Philadelphia grand jury report, it appears unlikely that any priests of Bishops will be charges with crimes. According to Attorney General Kane, no criminal charges are being filed because some abusers have died, the statute of limitations has expired, or victims are too traumatized to testify. Too bad.

The grand jury report also noted the complicity of local law enforcement and elected leaders in the sexual abuse cover-up. Monsignor Philip Saylor told the grand jury that church officials held such clout in the eight-county diocese that “the police and civil authorities would often defer to the diocese” when priests were accused of abuse. Saylor told the grand jury that the mayors of Altoona and Johnstown even consulted him on their choices for police chief in the 1980s.

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Catholic canon lawyer turned advocate for victims, said it was common for law enforcement in heavily Catholic areas to defer to the church in handling accusations against priests.
While the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report sheds light on the deplorable situation in this small Catholic diocese, it does nothing to hold the offenders and the institution accountable for their criminal acts. This is a blight on the justice system. It also shows why the Catholic Church still needs to be held accountable for sexual abuse.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

newspaper templates - theme rewards