Monday, March 13, 2017

USA : Feds, bishop to spell out abuse plan in troubled diocese

Image result for diocese of altoona-johnstownWestern Pennsylvania’s top federal prosecutor and a Catholic bishop who heads a diocese where investigators say two former bishops helped cover up child-sex abuse by dozens of priests are scheduled to announce a plan to prevent future abuse.
 
Acting U.S. Attorney Soo Song and Altoona-Johnstown Bishop Mark Bartchak have called a news conference for Monday afternoon in Johnstown.

They “announced a collaborative framework to protect the children of the diocese from sexual abuse,” according to a media advisory.

A year ago, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane released a 147-page report based on secret diocesan records and other evidence that detailed abuse by more than 50 priests and clergy against hundreds of children.

The report criticized Bartchak’s predecessors, James Hogan, who headed the diocese from 1966 to 1986 and died in 2005, and Joseph Adamec, who succeeded Hogan and retired in 2005.

Adamec cited possible self-incrimination in refusing to testify before the grand jury Kane convened.

Adamec’s attorney argued in court filings that allegations of a cover-up by the now 81-year-old cleric are unfounded, noting Adamec suspended or removed nine priests from ministry, and that five others ordered to undergo psychological counseling never re-offended.

Kane’s report did not accuse Bartchak of wrongdoing, and he had suspended several priests named as alleged abusers in the report in the months leading up to its release. 

Still, the grand jury said it remains “concerned the purge of predators is taking too long.”

The clergy sex abuse crisis erupted in 2002, when The Boston Globe reported that the Boston Archdiocese had transferred child-molesting priests from parish to parish to protect them. 

Similar scandals involving hundreds of offenders and victims have since erupted across the U.S. and beyond.

Kane’s investigation began when she was asked to review the diocese’s handling of abuse allegations at Bishop McCort Catholic High School against an athletic trainer, Franciscan Brother Stephen Baker, who worked there from 1992 to 2001. 

Baker killed himself in 2013 after abuse settlements with an Ohio diocese where he formerly worked were publicized.

Eighty-eight former McCort students settled claims against the diocese for $8 million in 2014.

A molestation suit against since-defrocked priest Francis Luddy that went to trial in 1994 also exposed many of the problems outlined in the grand jury report. 

The case led to a verdict of more than $2 million in damages and an appeals court finding that Hogan’s oversight of pedophile priests had been “outrageous.”

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