PA--Priest verbally attacks jurors; Victims want him punished
For immediate release: Thursday, March 10, 2016
A once high-ranking Altoona priest is publicly blasting jurors and law enforcement personnel. His boss, Altoona’s bishop, should demote or at least discipline him. And the bishop should order all church employees to resist the temptation to blame others for wrongdoing by church staff.
Msgr. Michael Servinsky told a newspaper that “the grand jury did quite a hatchet job on Bishop Joseph (Adamec) – they did him in.”
How bizarre. Msgr. Servinsky pled the fifth before the grand jury. Yet now, he publicly attacks the impartial citizens who did their civic duty by sitting for grand jury duty and the unbiased law enforcement staff who spent two years investigating the reckless, callous and deceitful Altoona Catholic officials.
(Msgr. Servinsky also implied that locking up child molesters doesn’t really help and that police and judges – not church officials - took the initiative to hid clergy child sex crimes: “ I know situations where police and judges would collar him and say: ‘Get that guy out of here and we will not prosecute.’” He also made a sweeping and certainly false generalization “Most of the victims who came to us were not interested in taking it to law enforcement. They didn’t want to testify.”)
Shame on Msgr. Servinsky. And shame on Bishop Mark Bartchak for tolerating this priest’s mean-spirited and wrong-headed and self-serving remarks.
Msgr. Servinsky isn’t just any priest. For years, he worked in the Altoona diocesan headquarters as vicar general, a prominent and powerful position directly under the bishop.
It’s bad enough that Catholic officials in Altoona and elsewhere sometimes attack victims, their supporters and their attorneys. It’s distressing that they sometimes attack journalists, whistleblowers and witnesses. We’ve long grown accustomed to such inappropriate attacks from men who claim to be “shepherds.”
But Msgr. Servinsky’s irresponsible and intimidating comments surprise and sadden us. Worse, they will no doubt endanger kids by discouraging others who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes or cover ups, and likely already feel hopeless, from protecting kids by calling police and exposing those who commit or conceal this horror.
Msgr. Servinsky and Bishop Joseph Adamec want to have their cake and eat it too, refusing to answer questions by the jurors while later claiming that the jurors and law enforcement professionals somehow got it all wrong. That shows a stunning degree of gall.
And Bartchak let’s them play “bad cop” while he plays “good cop.”
Ignoring wrongdoing encourages more wrongdoing. Bartchak knows this. Yet he ignores Msgr. Servinsky’s inexcusable “shoot the messenger” dodge.
Last September, Bartchak “relieved Msgr. Servinsky of his duties as vicar general.” But Bartchak must do more.
Until Bartchak finds the courage to act, we urge citizens and Catholics to deter more hurtful behavior by Msgr. Servinsky by denouncing him directly and publicly and by refusing to donate to his parish.
(NOTE - The Guardian also reported that Msgr. Servinsky “was cited in the grand jury report as having failed to notify law enforcement in 2001 and 2002 about two priests who admitted past abuse to him, one of boys the other of girls.” The priest now pastors a church in Altoona.)
(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.