PA--Victims applaud AG probe of monastery

For immediate release: Thursday, June 25

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, [email protected])

We’re glad law enforcement are searching a Catholic institution where a serial child molesting cleric spent time. We hope current and former monastery staff and students with information about the predator will pick up the phone and call the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office immediately.

We also hope sources who talked with the Tribune-Review are correct and that today’s action “may be part of a larger investigation of child molestation over nearly three decades involving more than 20 priests in the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese.”

Beyond the Brother Stephen Baker cases, Altoona-Johnstown Bishop Mark Leonard Bartchak has a dreadful record on safeguarding kids, ousting predators and helping victims. We hope law enforcement officials at the local and state levels will more aggressively investigate crimes and cover ups in his diocese.

Catholic officials quickly distance themselves from institutions like the St. Bernadine Monastery and Bishop McCort Catholic High School. But that’s disingenuous. Priests, nuns, brothers and other clerics at these institutions operate with the permission of the local bishop. So Bishop Bartchak should stop splitting hairs and start reaching out. He should care less about helping his reputation and more about helping his flock. Every Altoona-Johnstown church staffer and member should focus now on protecting the vulnerable and exposing the guilty instead of on preserving their comfort and ignoring these crimes.

NOTE – We have 12 statements on our website about Bishop Bartchak and how he deals with abuse and cover up cases. And a list of 27 accused Altoona area child molesting clerics is at

If you saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes or cover ups in central PA, now is the time to step forward, expose wrongdoers, protect kids, deter cover ups and start healing.

(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

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (


Priest sex abuse allegations lead to AG search of monastery

By Andrew Conte and Brad Bumsted 0Thursday, June 25, 2015, 3:24 p.m.

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Agents with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office on Thursday searched the grounds of St. Bernadine Monastery near this Blair County borough, where a Franciscan priest accused of molesting children killed himself two years ago.

The search may be part of a larger investigation of child molestation over nearly three decades involving   . . .

Read full article here

Showing 2 comments

  • Michael Ference
    commented 2015-06-26 06:42:57 -0500
    This is how easy it is to cover-up crimes against innocent children in Pennsylvania. I don’t have a police badge or even a press pass but this is what I was able to uncover concerning one Catholic priest in the Pittsburgh Diocese.
    An Open Letter to William and Kimberly Gaines proud parents of Billy Gaines, a former University of Pittsburgh student and football player who fell to his death due to the corruption of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese.

    Sadly, Mr. and Mrs. Gaines, I have to be the one to tell you that Billy’s untimely death could have and should have been prevented. For over 25 years I’ve been trying to expose the dysfunctional and deviant behavior of a former Catholic priest from the Pittsburgh Diocese. His name is Father John Wellinger. Billy was not the only University of Pittsburgh student to be victimized by a Catholic priest, nor the only young man to lose his life because of a Catholic priest from the Pittsburgh Diocese.

    I can assure you that I have tried everything imaginable to expose the criminal behavior of Catholic priests in the Pittsburgh Diocese, especially Father John Wellinger. Had I successfully exposed Wellinger, there’s no doubt in my mind, your son, Billy would still be alive.

    What’s worse, there were so many others who could easily have exposed Wellinger but deliberately covered-up his crimes; again had any one of these dozens and dozens of people done the right thing, your son Billy would be alive today.

    I take no pleasure in writing this letter even though I know it may finally force people to confront the truth. And, I know it won’t bring Billy back, but it might save others. I have a feeling Billy would want to help others.

    Here’s what I know for sure and why Billy could still be alive today if only those people in charge would have done the right thing.

    Sometime in early 1987, possibly February or March, Father John Wellinger and a University of Pittsburgh student, Greg Witkowski, were sharing beers in an Oakland apartment that Greg leased with his brother, who was also a Pitt student.

    Greg admitted to me that Wellinger often provided alcohol for Greg and his brother. On this particular night Wellinger also drugged Greg with a substance that knocked him out for hours. When Greg regained consciousness he intuitively called 9-1-1. Scared, Greg said he raced down the flights of stairs to meet the EMS crew and ambulance that transported the still dazed student to Presbyterian University Hospital, now known as University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

    To read the rest of the story visit my facebook page below.
  • @ tweeted this page. 2015-06-25 18:48:39 -0500

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