Grand Jury: 40-Year Coverup of Child Sexual Abuse in Pa. Diocese

A 147-page grand jury report made public today says two Roman Catholic bishops in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese covered up sexual assaults for decades. No charges will be filed.

Kathleen Kane - AG press conference - Catholic priest sexual abuse

Kathleen Kane speaks at the press conference announcing the results of the grand jury investigation into the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. (Still via web stream)

The details of each allegation seemed more harrowing than the last. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane today described numerous instances of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. A grand jury report says this abuse was covered up by two bishops who led the diocese: James Hogan and James Adamec.

“Children reported having their genitals fondled, being forced to participate, watch or permit masturbation, being forced to perform or receive oral sex to or from priests and being anally raped,” Kane said before spending about 15 minutes describing specific allegations from the grand jury. Kane said the grand jury report names more than 50 priests and religious leaders over a 40-year period; there are hundreds of victims. “One victim, now over 50 years old, stated that his life ‘became a living hell,’” she said.

No charges will be filed against the priests or bishops, however, due to a variety of reasons, including the statute of limitations. Additionally, many of the abusers have died; Bishop Hogan died in 2005. Adamec — who retired in 2011 — said though a court filing by his attorney that the allegations are unfounded.

Kane urged the legislature to abolish the statue of limitations in child sexual abuse cases. “Victims need to be heard,” Kane said. “Abolishing this statute would allow these predators to be held accountable until the last day of their lives, because these victims live with it until the last day of their lives.”

Some of the evidence for the grand jury’s report came from secret files Kane said the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese kept in the bishop’s office. “The secret archive was under lock and key,” Kane said, “and only the bishop had a key.” So-called “secret archives” were at the heart of the abuse case in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

“Inside the filing cabinet marked Confidential Litigation Files, special agents found files for priests who were accused of sexual misconduct,” the grand jury report reads. “The ‘secret archive’ was a safe contained in a cabinet in the bishop’s office. The safe was under lock in which only the bishop had the key. … The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown was in possession of a massive amount of data detailing a dark and disturbing history.”

Kane said the investigation remains ongoing. She has set up a tip line for reports about the investigation — 888-538-8541 — that will be manned by an investigator involved in the case until 9 p.m. each night. No priests named in the report are currently active members of the ministry, though Kane said some were active when the grand jury investigation began.

“This is not just some allegation of a cover-up,” Kane said. “This is the how, when, where, what and who covered it up.”

News of the grand jury report comes just a day after lawmakers grilled Kane over expenses stemming from the independent prosecutor she hired to investigate porngate.

Kane says she’s spent about $67,000 so far investigating the scandal where lawmakers (mostly male) sent pornographic, offensive and other inappropriate emails on work accounts and on work time. Kane says she’s budgeted $750,000 for the investigation, but says expenses could go as high as $2 million.

Douglas Gansler, the former Maryland AG whose law firm Buckley Sandler is handling the investigation, said yesterday no criminal charges were likely to come from his probe. Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, told the Inquirer he does not believe Gansler can prosecute anyway: He doesn’t have a law license in Pennsylvania.

Kane announced last month she was not running for a second term as attorney general. She has been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. Her trial is scheduled for August.

A copy of the grand-jury report and the FBI timeline released as part of the grand jury information are below.

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