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Allegations plague Pennsylvania diocese [unusually high number of allegations for its size]
National Catholic Reporter ^ | 8/29/03 | CHUCK COLBERT

Posted on 08/28/2003 1:10:46 PM PDT by Polycarp

Allegations plague Pennsylvania diocese

By CHUCK COLBERT Johnstown, Pa.

When three new lawsuits were filed in August, it was just the latest sexual abuse-related troubles to hit the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, which has faced an unusually high number of allegations of abuse by priests for a diocese of its size.

Boston-based Survivors First, an advocacy group for victims of clergy sexual abuse, has compiled news of allegations against 19 priests (14 of those cases the subject of lawsuits) and one deacon in Altoona-Johnstown, the highest number in Pennsylvania. By comparison, the group has tracked allegations against 14 clergy members in the Philadelphia archdiocese and six in Pittsburgh, both with substantially larger Catholic populations. Nearby Greensburg, with a population of 189,000, higher than Altoona-Johnstown’s 111,000, has only one.

“We’ve expected the next wave of disclosures may come from smaller dioceses that so far have escaped extensive legal and media attention,” said David Clohessy, a national spokesperson for the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

On Aug. 12 two complaints were filed in Blair County, naming as defendants the diocese, the current Bishop Joseph Adamec and retired Bishop James Hogan. These civil suits were filed on behalf of two sexual abuse victims who allege they were molested as children by priests assigned to the diocese.

The alleged victims are John T. Arndt and David T. Savelski. Although not named as defendants because of expiration of the state’s statute of limitations, the priests identified in the complaints are Fr. Joseph Bender and Fr. John Boyle.

Another lawsuit was filed Aug. 20 against the diocese by a 42-year-old anonymous plaintiff who says that Bender molested him on numerous occasions between 1968 and 1970. Bender left the ministry in 1992 and died in 2000.

The lawsuits come on the heels of six filed this spring, alleging misconduct by more than a half dozen clergy members. Altoona attorney Richard M. Serbin represents the nine plaintiffs in those lawsuits as well as the three filed in August.

Aside from Serbin’s cases, a victim’s mother has filed an additional lawsuit.

Serbin is the only lawyer to win a civil sex-abuse lawsuit involving charges of pedophilia against a priest in Pennsylvania. In the 1994 case of Hutchinson v. Luddy the court awarded Michael S. Hutchinson Jr. $l.5 million in compensatory damages. The diocese has paid out over $l million in compensatory damages. An additional $l million for punitive damages is before the State Supreme Court.

Many local Catholics have questioned why the diocese has not settled the pending cases out of court, including the Luddy lawsuit. But Adamec said during an interview in his chancery offices early last March, “Sometimes there are things more important than cost -- values that this suit involves and that we hold as church.

“There was an issue of just how responsible a diocese ought to be 24 hours a day, for everyone assigned to it,” he said. Adamec said he consulted widely with others, not just legal counsel, before deciding to go to court.

Yet Serbin said he remains puzzled as to why Adamec chose to fight the case. “Back in l987, here’s a case with a pedophile. Luddy admitted to molesting the Hutchinson boy’s brother. You’d think the diocese would want to do the right thing and settle. Instead, the response was to fight this case tooth and nail, with every kind of hardball legal tactic. They could have settled the case for a small fraction of what they paid their attorneys.

“My first priority is to get all predator priests out of the ministry. My clients also need some financial means so that they can get on with their lives,” Serbin explained.

Serbin said he would like to settle the current suits without court trials. “There has been no expression of any interest by the diocese to sit down with me and talk about settling these cases,” he said.

Adamec has both his defenders and detractors. Some say that they are put off by the bishop’s “arrogance.” The mother of a son who alleges sex abuse voiced her frustration over Adamec’s handling of her son’s allegations. “He’s a liar,” she said in a telephone interview.

Conservative lay activist George Foster has been particularly critical of Adamec’s handling of the sex abuse crisis. “I read the Luddy trial. That’s when I would say I was fully scandalized by the diocese,” he said. “If anybody reads the Luddy trial, nobody’s going to come away believing the diocese told the truth, both our current bishop and the previous bishop.”

Foster and a small group of Catholics have a Web site, www.dioceseaj.com, posting their own account of the scandal and dissent in the diocese. A lengthy section suggests a link between sexual abuse and sexually active priests, including a “homosexual establishment.”

Adamec’s supporters point to the fact that he has convened a lay review board to handle allegations with merit. Laypersons Mary O’Leary Wiley and Russ Miller, who both serve on the board, say that half a dozen victims have come forward to them so far. Also, the diocese has implemented its “Protecting God’s Children” training program to help spot warning signs of sexual abuse. The diocese also had a written policy in place as early as 1987.

Mark Pasquerilla, a Johnstown businessman and parishioner at St. Rochus, believes the bishop is addressing local concerns and the allegations, all of which, with the exception of one charge, took place more than 15 years ago, before Adamec became bishop. “Some ultraconservatives seem to have another agenda. Some priests don’t like their boss,” he told NCR.

“I don’t know what gives this group any moral authority. [Foster’s] Web site is very destructive when there are many good people in the church working to build it up.”

Another critic called the Web site “open hunting season on gay priests.”

St. Rochus’ pastor, Fr. Charlie Amershek, has also spoken out on Adamec’s behalf. In a letter to the editor of The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, Amershek wrote that it is one thing to disagree with “the counsel [the bishop] has received from legal or psychological advisers” or “find fault with his judgment.” But it is “unfair to impugn his integrity.”

Adamec continues to defend his actions. He has responded in The Catholic Register, the diocese’s newspaper. “I have no problem defending the church. It’s the inaccuracies that are hard to address,” he said.

“We are being judged for our past actions on the basis of what we know today, and I think that is not fair,” said Adamec. “What we know today and did not know 30 years ago, nobody else knew either. It wasn’t just the church; it was the police, psychologists and society in general -- like with alcoholism and addiction, everyone thought the guy could change. Now we would do things differently.”

But Serbin said, “When has it ever been legal or moral to molest a child? … To suggest to any reasonable person that there is a learning curve for adult-child sex abuse is wrong, both legally and morally. It cannot be condoned.”

Freelance journalist Chuck Colbert writes from Cambridge, Mass.

National Catholic Reporter, August 29, 2003


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Front Page News; US: Pennsylvania
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist
Foster and a small group of Catholics have a Web site, www.dioceseaj.com, posting their own account of the scandal and dissent in the diocese. A lengthy section suggests a link between sexual abuse and sexually active priests, including a “homosexual establishment.”
1 posted on 08/28/2003 1:10:46 PM PDT by Polycarp
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To: .45MAN; AAABEST; AKA Elena; al_c; american colleen; Angelus Errare; Antoninus; aposiopetic; ...
Directly related threads:

Gay priests of Diocese A-J in revolt; demand Bishop conceal molesters, sue Catholic activists

Altoona-Johnstown Diocese muzzles priests [threat of excommunication]: "Bishop must end cover-up" ^

2 posted on 08/28/2003 1:14:55 PM PDT by Polycarp ("If God does not exist, everything is permitted" - Father Felix Lubyxsynsky)
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To: Polycarp
How are the local Catholics weathering this storm? Do you see any loss of faith or defection to other denominations?
3 posted on 08/28/2003 1:27:34 PM PDT by Canticle_of_Deborah (Proud card carrying member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy since 1984)
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: Canticle_of_Deborah
I know some who have stopped going to mass completely, others who have left for evangelical circles. Yes, having a heretical, homosexual-coddling bishop is deleterious to the flock.
5 posted on 08/28/2003 1:47:51 PM PDT by Polycarp ("If God does not exist, everything is permitted" - Father Felix Lubyxsynsky)
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To: Canticle_of_Deborah
This is most striking: there are allegations against NINETEEN clergy in our tiny Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown versus only 14 in Philadelphia and only 6 in Pittsburgh!

How can a bishop deny there is a problem when he lies so patholigically outside the curve of rates of abuse in neighboring dioceses?

6 posted on 08/28/2003 1:55:07 PM PDT by Polycarp ("If God does not exist, everything is permitted" - Father Felix Lubyxsynsky)
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To: thoughtomator
The Roman Catholic Church is Christ's Church.

Of course, Satan is going to attack it. Of course it will have enemies both within and without its walls. Of course, like all churches and all institutions, it will have sinners.

But Satan knows the right address, he knows which Church to attack. Even if you do not.

7 posted on 08/28/2003 2:00:01 PM PDT by Polycarp ("If God does not exist, everything is permitted" - Father Felix Lubyxsynsky)
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To: Polycarp
I think your bishop is the heart of the problem, whether he admits to the problem or not. He's a facilitator if not an instigator.
8 posted on 08/28/2003 2:00:26 PM PDT by Canticle_of_Deborah (Proud card carrying member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy since 1984)
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To: Polycarp
What is the, ahem, "size"?
9 posted on 08/28/2003 2:01:48 PM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: swarthyguy
What is the, ahem, "size"?

111,000 Catholics in several (?) counties in central PA.

SD

10 posted on 08/28/2003 2:07:27 PM PDT by SoothingDave
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To: Polycarp
But Satan knows the right address, he knows which Church to attack.

So the fact that there are so many child-molesting priests is proof that Satan is attacking the Church, which in turn is proof that it is the One True Church. Heh.

In any case, how do you explain the Church leadership's decisions to protect the molesters and facilitate future molestation by moving them when they were discovered? Does that mean that Satan has indeed infiltrated the Catholic Church and some of the Bishops are doing his bidding?

11 posted on 08/28/2003 2:10:20 PM PDT by xm177e2 (Stalinists, Maoists, Ba'athists, Pacifists: Why are they always on the same side?)
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To: xm177e2
Does that mean that Satan has indeed infiltrated the Catholic Church and some of the Bishops are doing his bidding?

Of course Satan has infiltrated the Church, of course there are those in the Church, even in the hierarchy that will do his bidding. But he won't prevail. Satan infiltrated the 12 Apostles and Judas did his bidding...why should today be any different?

12 posted on 08/28/2003 2:25:31 PM PDT by pgkdan
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To: xm177e2
see post 12
13 posted on 08/28/2003 2:27:44 PM PDT by Polycarp ("If God does not exist, everything is permitted" - Father Felix Lubyxsynsky)
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To: Polycarp
Does anyone know of one case where the police were immediately called on one of these abuse cases? It just seems hard to believe that of the numerous cases that have been reported no one ever goes to the authorities.
14 posted on 08/28/2003 2:34:45 PM PDT by CaptainK
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To: Polycarp
The Church of Satan is building itself inside the hollow core of the Catholic Church. I'll stand by that statement, I have seen the corruption within it with my own eyes, and I see no recognition whatsoever from the church heirarchy that they understand what is happenning.

Sad but true. The time to rescue the Catholic Church is imminent, if there are any believers left within it.
15 posted on 08/28/2003 2:37:53 PM PDT by thoughtomator (Welcome to the Iraq Roach Motel - Islamofascists check in, but they don't check out!)
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To: xm177e2
So the fact that there are so many child-molesting priests is proof that Satan is attacking the Church, which in turn is proof that it is the One True Church. Heh.

yeah, Satan knows the right address. And his minions do his bidding wittingly and unwittingly.

When you're equally hated by the liberals, homosexual activists, abortionists, population controllers, the UN, feminists, agnostics, atheists, communists, etc, as well as the fundamentalists and bible only folks, you know ya' just gotta be doing something right ;-)

I makes me realize more than ever we fight alongside Christ, and the forces of anti-Christ are arrayed against His body, the Church. Thanks for strengthening my faith!

16 posted on 08/28/2003 2:49:54 PM PDT by Polycarp ("If God does not exist, everything is permitted" - Father Felix Lubyxsynsky)
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To: Polycarp
<...makes me realize more than ever we fight alongside Christ, and the forces of anti-Christ are arrayed against His body, the Church. Thanks for strengthening my faith!

Amen.

17 posted on 08/28/2003 5:23:09 PM PDT by pgkdan
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To: Polycarp
This is most striking: there are allegations against NINETEEN clergy in our tiny Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown versus only 14 in Philadelphia and only 6 in Pittsburgh!

I'm originally from that Diocese and believe me, it is dead-ends-ville. The church's version of Siberia and as such became a dumping gound for a wide variety of problem priests. I grew up in a small town in W. PA and happened to have Fr. John Boyle as our pastor. Even then I used to ask myself just how bad did any priest have to screw-up to get sent there. I think Boyle started off in Boston. That's how the church worked at the time. Punishment was demotion to the sticks.

Richard W.

18 posted on 08/28/2003 5:38:54 PM PDT by arete (Greenspan is a ruling class elitist and closet socialist who is destroying the economy)
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To: Polycarp; xm177e2
.
In the words of Frederick William Faber;

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious Word!

Refrain

Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.
Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
We all shall then be truly free.

Refrain

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach Thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.

Refrain

Faith of our fathers, Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
England shall then indeed be free.

(Faber was an Anglican minister who converted to Roman Catholicism and founded the Brotherhood of St. Philip Neri.)

19 posted on 08/29/2003 7:07:18 AM PDT by Barnacle (When the persecution of Christians begins, surely it will begin with the persecution of Catholics)
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To: arete; .45MAN; AAABEST; AKA Elena; al_c; american colleen; Angelus Errare; Antoninus; ...
I just sent this to our local paper. They usually print my letters to ed, we'll see on this one:

8/29/03

Letter to the Editor, Johnstown Tribune Democrat:

Responding to recent lawsuits, Bishop Adamec stated "the legal action
alleges that some sort of conspiracy exists within this diocesan church that
allows and even promotes inappropriate behavior on the part of its priests
in regard to minors. I deny and know of no such conspiracy."

Boston's Survivors First, an advocacy group for victims of clergy sexual
abuse, has compiled news of allegations against 19 priests in
Altoona-Johnstown, the highest number in Pennsylvania. The group has tracked
allegations against 14 in the Philadelphia archdiocese, six in Pittsburgh,
and one in nearby Greensburg.

Johnstown has 111,000 Catholics, Philadelphia 1,488,316, Pittsburgh 793,417,
and Greensburg has 189,000 Catholics. Our diocese therefore has 20 times as
many allegations of priest sexual abuse per Catholic as Philadelphia, 25
times as many as Pittsburgh, and 33 times as many as Greensburg PA!

Furthermore, Bishop Adamec must publicly explain at least one abuse case if
he desires to quell diocesan "conspiracy theories." According to local
newspaper articles, Father Robert J. Kelly continues to serve, unsupervised,
as Pastor of St. Peter and Paul parish in Philipsburg, while other priests
such as Fr. Martin McCamley and Fr. Bernard V. Grattan have been
unceremoniously removed. The allegations against Fr. Kelly appear just as
credible as the others.

Privately, many diocesan priests are expressing bewilderment over this gross
inequity, and the laity are scandalized. What does Fr. Kelly know that is
holding the hand of Bishop Adamec?

The grossly disproportionate numbers of molester priests and blatant
disparity in treatment of accused priests and persecution of orthodox
priests are the makings of "a conspiracy" hard to dispel in the minds of
many diocesan Catholics.

Dr. Brian J. Kopp
20 posted on 08/30/2003 8:02:53 AM PDT by Polycarp ("If God does not exist, everything is permitted" - Father Felix Lubyxsynsky)
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To: Polycarp
Good letter. I hope it gets published.

Richard W.

21 posted on 08/30/2003 8:11:01 AM PDT by arete (Greenspan is a ruling class elitist and closet socialist who is destroying the economy)
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To: Polycarp
***Thanks for strengthening my faith!***

22 posted on 08/30/2003 11:55:59 AM PDT by kitkat
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To: Barnacle
Thanks for posting this, by the way.

I'm often amazed that when I reflect on my early years, being raised in a guitar and tamborines, folk music liberal Catholic parish, the hymns I remember and love are not the modern junk but the beautiful old Marian hymns, and the ones like these.

Even a child like me, with no musical ability whatsoever, could see the beauty and get attached to those old hymns which were truly rare in our folk masses back then.

23 posted on 08/30/2003 1:04:18 PM PDT by Polycarp ("If God does not exist, everything is permitted" - Father Felix Lubyxsynsky)
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To: Polycarp
I’m glad you enjoyed it. There are many that I just can’t get on key with. It frustrates me because I like to sing. And I think its because there are some plain old bad songs out there… practically un-singable.

One exception to that is my current favorite –

HOW GREAT THOU ART

Oh Lord my God when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

When Christ shall come
With shout of acclamation
To take me home
What joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim my God how great Thou art

Then sings my soul my savior God to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art
Then sings my soul my savior God to Thee
How great Thou art how great Thou art.

P.S. - I wish God's speed to truth, justice and peace for your diocese.
24 posted on 08/30/2003 3:13:24 PM PDT by Barnacle (Navigating the treacherous waters of a liberal culture)
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