It has been revealed that hundreds of children were sexually abused over a period of at least four decades by priests and other leaders within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in Pennsylvania.
The findings by a statewide grand-jury, which was released Tuesday morning by the office of Pennsylvania State Attorney General Kathleen Kane, details widespread abuse and systemic cover-up involving at least 50 priests or religious leaders. The findings underscore a troubling consistency of diocesan superiors concealing child abuse in an attempt mitigate and isolate the damage inflicted on the Catholic Church’s image.
Graphically detailed in a 147-page report are the accounts of sexual abuse of children at the hands of priests and church leaders, in particular the late Monsignor Francis B McCaa, noting he was a “monster” who serially groped and assaulted at least 15 young boys, with at least one of his victims committing suicide.
McCaa had worked for the Holy Name Church in Edensburg, PA for more than 20 years.
Similarly, the grand jury case of Joseph Gaborek – assigned to St. Michael’s Church in West Salisbury and St. Mary’s Church in Pocahontas in the early 1980s – to be a “particularly heinous example of the Diocese exercising authority and influence to cover up the sexual abuse of a child at the hands of a Diocesan priest.”
At least one news outlet, Bishop Accountability, had confirmed allegations of sexual abuse, misconduct, and cover-up in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese as early as June 2002.
The news coincidentally comes on the heels of “Spotlight,” which won the Oscar on Sunday for Best Picture, detailing the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation of the widespread allegations of sexual abuse and subsequent cover up in the Boston diocese.
A 2004 study by the Catholic Church found that more than 4,000 US priests had faced sexual abuse allegations in the last 50 years.
Their victims numbered more than 10,000 children, predominantly young boys.
The Altoona-Johnstown investigation reviewed more than 200 exhibits and testimonies from various witnesses, leading to a search warrant in August, 2015 at a diocesan office, where a “secret archive” was uncovered by officials.
Authorities found internal correspondences related to the sexual abuse, including handwritten notes between different bishops and different confessions.
“The heinous crimes these children endured are absolutely unconscionable,” said Attorney General Kane, speaking at a press conference at the Blair County Convention Center. “These predators desecrated a sacred trust and preyed upon their victims in the very places where they should have felt most safe. They failed our society’s most important task of protecting our children.”
Regrettably, none of the the criminal acts detailed in the grand jury report can be prosecuted due to either the deaths of alleged abusers or the statute of limitations having expired.
The National Catholic Reporter has been made aware, but has not released an official statement regarding the allegations as of the time of this publication.