Grand Jury Discovers Decades of Child Abuse, Hundreds of Victims, in Pennsylvania Diocese

I don’t usually do this, but this is pretty horrifying stuff. So, content warning for rape and child abuse.

A Pennsylvania grand jury investigation into the Pennsylvanian Altoona-Johnstown Diocese has wrapped up, and its findings are gut-wrenching: hundreds of children were sexually abused by Church leaders over the course of decades. More to the point, the Church not only knew about it, but also went so far as to interfere with police investigations in order to hide it.

The most infuriating part of it all? The plan worked:


None of the alleged criminal acts detailed in the report can be prosecuted at this point because many of the alleged abusers have died, the statute of limitations for these crimes has passed, and many of the victims are too “deeply traumatized” to testify in court, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

The report notes:

The Grand Jury was able to document child sexual abuse by at least 50 different priests or religious leaders within the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The evidence also demonstrated that hundreds of children have been victimized by religious leaders operating within the Diocese; and the mere presence of these child predators endangered thousands of children by exposure to potential sexual abuse. Predator after predator came before the Grand Jury. Each indicated that it was the first time any law enforcement official had questioned them.

The nature of this child sexual abuse took on many forms. Children reported having their genitals fondled; being forced to participate in, watch or permit masturbation; being forced to perform or receive oral sex on and/or from priests, and being anally raped. In addition to this vile criminal behavior, the Grand Jury saw evidence of both alcohol and pornography being provided to children by Catholic priests.

Bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec could have reported these matters to the police. Those same Bishops could have removed these child molesting priests from any and all ministry. Hogan and Adamec could have encouraged the fellow priests of these child molesters to report what they saw or heard of this sexual behavior involving children. The Bishops did nothing of the sort. Instead Bishop James Hogan and Bishop Joseph Adamec chose to shield the institution and themselves from “scandal”. Because of their choices and failed leadership hundreds of children suffered.

The report details case upon case of abuse, corroborated by testimony and by documents from the diocese’s “secret archive,” obtained by search warrant. These documents include confessions from the abusers and the “treatment” plans ordered by the bishops — which included self-reported threat indicators, periods of “reflection” that were essentially vacations, and, of course, being moved to a new area where there were new victims.

It’s an all-too-familiar story at this point: “men of God” who abused their position of trust and authority to prey upon children, shielded by other “men of God” from the consequences of their actions, without regard to the well-being of their victims or the protection of other children.

And the fact that it is so familiar is perhaps the most disgusting, disturbing facet of the story. That this is yet “another Catholic abuse ‘scandal'”; that an organization, allegedly devoted to the greater good, could perpetrate such evil, for so long, that we’re finally numb to the horrors.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Rachel Ford

Rachel Ford is a programmer, and since 8:00 to 5:00 doesn't provide enough opportunity to bask in screen glare, she writes in her spare time. She was raised a very fundamentalist Christian, but eventually "saw the light." Rachel's personal blog is Rachel's Hobbit Hole, where she discusses everything from Tolkien to state politics.