PA--Victims blast Altoona “healing services”
For immediate release: Tuesday, May 10, 2016
In an insulting but shrewd public relations move, Altoona’s bishop is holding self-serving “healing” events instead of protecting kids through decisive action. http://dioceseaj.org/node/1075
In the 147 page grand jury report, released two months ago, perhaps the most disturbing fact is that the jurors are “concerned the purge of predators is taking too long.”
That’s where the focus should be – removing predators – not holding “healing” events. Altoona Catholic officials should concentrate on protecting vulnerable kids, not winning back upset parishioners.
Their priorities are backwards.
Such services are nothing more than public relations. They don't protect a single child, expose a single predator, punish a single concealer or deter a single cover up.
Bishop Mark Bartchak should take tangible steps so that the church no longer will need to hold such events. The goal should be no more victims.
As we’ve said before, Bartchak refuses to
--discipline even a single wrongdoer identified in the grand jury report,
--fire a nun who deals with victims and was blasted in the grand jury report,
--replace his review board members who the report called “biased,”
--even oust ONE review board member who refused to answer questions by grand jurors,
--discipline or even denounce a priest who verbally attacked police, prosecutors and jurors,
--alert bishops in Florida, South Carolina, Colorado, West Virginia into whose dioceses Altoona predator priests were quietly sent (and may still be living), or
--aggressively beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police, using pulpit announcements and church websites and parish bulletins.
We’re reminded of the famous fast food ad of years past that popularized the phrase “Where’s the beef?” In this case, it’s “Where’s the action?” The short answer is: In Altoona, it’s sorely lacking.
The grand jury concluded “Nothing has changed” in the Altoona diocese with respect to abuse reports. And nothing WILL change unless Altoona citizens and Catholics insist that Barchak stop the words, apologies, promises and excuses and start showing leadership, and begin by speeding up the purge of predators from parishes.
For example, Bartchak should warn parents, parishioners, police, prosecutors and the public about two priests who molested in Altoona who are still priests and, we suspect, are living unsupervised among unsuspecting families. They are Fr. David Arsenault and Fr. James Coveney.
Bartchak should take immediate steps to alert police, prosecutors, parishioners, parents and the public of their whereabouts and put them in a remote, secure, independently-run treatment center. These two predator priests could be assaulting kids and young people today. They could be in the Altoona area today or this weekend, visiting old parishioners and hurting their kids.
With real outreach by Bartchak, these two might even be prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned, sparing others decades of devastating pain.
Again, wounded adults can heal themselves, with or without action by bishops. Innocent kids and vulnerable adults, however, cannot protect themselves from predators without action by bishops.
Bartchak should put announcements in every parish bulletin at the first opportunity, begging those who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Arsenault or Fr. Coveney to step forward and call police.
No matter what church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(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)
Story Date: 2016-04-20
Bishop Mark will preside at three Diocesan prayer services for healing. All victims of abuse and their families, as well as the faithful of Altoona-Johnstown, are invited to join the Bishop in prayer for those who have been harmed. The schedule of services is as follows:
- May 16 at 7:00 p.m. – Saint Andrew Parish, 1621 Ferndale Avenue, Johnstown
- May 17 at 7:00 p.m. – Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Altoona
- May 19 at 7:00 p.m. – Our Lady of Victory Parish, 820 Westerly Parkway, State College
Each prayer service will include Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Evening Prayer, and a homily. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will also be available.
“I invite all of the faithful, especially those who have been harmed by someone in the Church, to join me at these prayer services,” said Bishop Bartchak, who first announced his intention to hold the services during public remarks in March. “I hope the time spent in community with others before the Blessed Sacrament will be a source of comfort, healing, and peace for all those affected by abuse.”
As part of its commitment to assist those who have been harmed and to protect children, the Diocese has made contact with state-wide leaders regarding programs and services available to assist survivors in the healing process.
The Diocese urges anyone with information about suspected abuse to call the Attorney General’s hotline at (888) 538-8541. Additional support is available through Mrs. Jean Johnstone at the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Children and Youth Protection Advocacy Office at (814) 944-9388.
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.