Grand jury report blasts PA bishops; Victims respond
For immediate release: Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Another grand jury has found that Catholic officials respond deceitfully to child sex abuse reports. We’re saddened but not the least bit surprised. It proves what we’ve long maintained: that even now, under the guise of “reform,” bishops continue to deceive parishioners and the public about their on-going efforts to hide abuse.
We hope this investigation will prod similar ones across the US.
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT FINDING IN THIS REPORT: The diocesan review board “is a fact-finding (tool) for litigation, not as a victim service function” (p. 124).
“Nothing has changed but the trappings. . .” and “Victims who believe they’re reporting to an unbiased observers (on a church panel) would be sadly mistaken.”
In other words, a purported “reform” move by bishops – an internal “lay review board” - is actually a self-serving move. Ostensibly set up to help wounded victims, it actually helps church officials.
Catholics, citizens, police and prosecutors should be outraged over this.
Other grand juries, notably on Long Island and Philadelphia, have reached similar conclusions.
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that the grand jury found that “as recently as 2005, the Altoona-Johnstown diocese was hiring private investigators to look for ways to undercut the credibility of an alleged abuser.”
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT RECOMMENDATION IN THIS REPORT:
It recommends opening a civil window and abolishing the criminal statute of limitations, so that more victims of child sex crimes can expose and punish those who committed and concealed them and so that more crimes and cover ups can be stopped and deterred in the present and future.
This is a “no-brainer.” Pennsylvania lawmakers should stop being cowed or fooled by slick Catholic lobbyists. For the safety of children, legislators should pass these long-overdue, common sense reforms now.
Other noteworthy facts and findings:
-- "the men of God were devils in disguise"
-- “Offending priests knew they faced no risk of exposure because Bishop James Hogan and Bishop Joseph Adamec were cover ups” such crimes.
--Bishop Joseph Adamec pled the Fifth when questioned by the grand jury.
-- More than 50 child molesting clerics operated in a relatively small diocese in which abuse “was rampant for decades.” (p. 130),
-- They were “assisted by priests and bishops who covered up abuse rather than report it.”
-- The diocese “sought to protect the image of the institution rather than the children.”
THE CURRENT BISHOP
Much of the criticism in the report is directed at Bishop James J. Hogan, now deceased, who ran the diocese from 1966-1986 and Bishop Joseph Adamec who ran it from 1987-2011. But the current head of the Altoona diocese, Bishop Mark Bartchak, is not much better:
We submit that any law enforcement agency that investigates virtually any Catholic diocese in the US would find virtually the same irresponsible Machiavellian wrongdoing by clergy who commit and conceal heinous crimes against kids. We desperately hope that more attorneys general and more local prosecutors will find the courage to launch similar investigations into other Catholic dioceses and institutions.
We also hope that
--Every Pennsylvania parent will prod lawmakers to fix the state’s predator-friendly statutes of limitations,
--Every single current and former Altoona church employee – in parishes or the headquarters – will call law enforcement officials today and share what they know, suspect or have heard about clergy sex crimes and cover ups,
--Every single person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Altoona-Johnstown will summon the strength to call police, prosecutors, therapists, lawyers and support groups like ours, NOT Catholic officials, and
--The bishops in Pennsylvania’s seven other Catholic dioceses will denounce the horrific misdeeds of their Altoona colleagues.
Finally, while thousands will benefit from this report, it’s a long-overdue and posthumous validation for a now-deceased, incredibly brave victim who was treated like dirt by Altoona Catholic officials. He is Michael Hutchinson, who filed a civil suit in 1987 against the diocese and the predator who assaulted him: Fr. Francis Luddy. Michael took the case to court in 1994 and won an impressive jury verdict.
But Catholic officials dragged the case out for 17 years until it was finally resolved.
We applaud Michael’s incredible courage and persistence. We applaud the compassionate and determined attorney who fought for Michael so long and so hard: Richard Serbin. And we applaud every single Altoona-Johnstown victim who has played a role in exposing this horrific, decades-long pattern of recklessness, callousness and deceit by these allegedly spiritual figures in central Pennsylvania.
(NOTE – BishopAccountability.org, lists 31 publicly accused Altoona-Johnstown predator priests.)
(NOTE - In 2003, a year after US bishops adopted a “zero tolerance” abuse policy, Adamec kept two priests who were facing civil child sex abuse lawsuits on the job: Msgr. Thomas Mabon and Fr. Robert Kelly. http://www.snapnetwork.org/links_homepage/abusers_remaining_in_ministry.htm
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.