Pa. (CNS) — Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown
committed the Pennsylvania diocese to be transparent in its efforts related to the sexual
abuse of minors by clergy and to make public the names of all priests found to
have a credible allegation of abuse against them and the status of each man
within the diocese.
pledge came during an afternoon news conference March 3 at diocesan offices in Hollidaysburg, two days
after a state grand jury issued a report saying that at least 50 priests or
religious leaders were involved in the sexual abuse of hundreds of children over several decades and that diocesan leaders systematically concealed
the abuse to protect the church’s image.
list of priests accused of abuse will be published on the diocesan website, www.ajdiocese.org,
Bishop Bartchak said.
diocese made a copy of the statement Bishop Bartchak read to the media
bishop apologized to abuse victims, their families, people of the diocese and priests.
Bartchak also said that the diocese will continue sending to law enforcement authorities
written reports of allegations it receives of “any type of sexual
misconduct involving a minor” by a living or deceased clergyman or
religious, “whether or not the victim is now a minor and whether or not
the victim or another person already has made the report.”
review of diocesan procedures and policies related to child protection also
will begin, he said. Bishop Bartchak pledged to “make all changes that
should be made.”
He also urged people with information about suspected abuse to call
the hotline announced as the report was released, (888) 538-8541. People also may
call Jean Johnstone, the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator for additional
support at (814) 944-9388.
jury report details dozens of incidents of abuse — sometimes in graphic
language — by 34 priests against hundreds of victims, some of whom were as
young as 8 years old. It said other complaints had been made against a teacher
who was studying to become a deacon, a choirmaster, a coach and members of religious
jurors outlined actions by Bishop James J. Hogan, who led the diocese form 1966
until 1986 when he retired — he died in 2005 — and his successor Bishop
Joseph V. Adamec, who retired in 2011, for failing to report abuse allegations
Adamec denied any wrongdoing hours after the report was released in a filing with
the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in Pittsburgh. Filed by Pittsburgh
attorney David J. Berardinelli, the response charged that the grand jury
“was not provided with a full and balanced set of facts based on all the
materials and information that were available.” It said the report
“contains criticism that is unfounded.
filing outlined several steps that Bishop Adamec took to suspend priests from
ministry and that his actions followed the procedures in effect in the
Altoona-Johnstown Diocese prior to the adoption of the charter for the
protection of children in 2002 and afterward under protocols adopted by the
USCCB in the charter.
grand jury report commended Bishop Bartchak for cooperating with the state’s
investigation and offered recommendations for the diocese to consider in its handling
of abuse allegations, including keeping the needs of abuse victims foremost.
acknowledge there are a number of recommendations made in this report involving
how we respond to allegations of abuse,” the bishop said. “I take them
Bartchak thanked the grand jury for recognizing the progress the diocese has
made in handling abuse cases in the five years he has led the diocese.
am committed to doing even more to protect children,” he said, adding that he has met with victim/survivors. “Their words and their pain have deeply affected me. I pledge to them and to all families to do all that I can to ensure children are safe.”
bishop’s statement concluded by saying that the people of the diocese can find
comfort and healing “from these wounds” through prayer for all who have been harmed and all who have been affected. Plans are underway for prayer services for
mercy in the near future, he added.
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