Pennsylvania Attorney General: Catholic Bishops Covered Up ‘Hundreds’ Of Sexual Abuse Cases

According to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, two Roman Catholic bishops in charge of a central Pennsylvania (Altoona Johnstown) diocese helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children over a forty year period – shielding over fifty priests from prosecution.

The Roman Catholic Altoona Johnstown Diocese in Pennsylvania is the subject of a 147-page report released today, based on evidence from a secret archive uncovered through a search warrant executed in August, 2015. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced the findings today, and expressed her frustration that no criminal charges can be filed against the fifty priests who allegedly sexually abused hundreds of Pennsylvania children since 1966, reports the Guardian.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane released a damning 147-page report today, alleging a massive cover-up in the Altoona Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

“These predators desecrated a sacred trust and preyed upon their victims in the very places where they should have felt most safe. Just as troubling, is the cover-up perpetrated by clergy leaders that allowed this abuse to continue for decades,” Kathleen Kane said in a statement released today alongside the report.

Cases like these are messy, they’re not easy to prosecute – criminally or in civil court – in part because the allegations come to light sometimes decades after the abuse has occurred, well after the statute of limitations for criminal charges in most states. Additionally, as in the Altoona Johnstown Diocese case, some of the priests who sexually assaulted children have died of old age – or the victims are still simply too traumatized to testify or pursue civil damages, reports WNEP Pennsylvania.

The two Roman Catholic Bishops in question are James Hogan and Joseph Adamec, two Pennsylvania church leaders who ran the Altoona Johnstown Diocese during the forty years that the pedophile priests were active under their supervision. Bishop James Hogan ran the Altoona Johnstown Diocese from 1966 to 1986, he died in 2005. His successor was Bishop Joseph Adamec, who is still alive but retired in 2011.

Adamec refused to testify in grand jury hearings, pleading the fifth amendment – his right against self-incrimination. The only statement from his attorney was released via a court filing, Adamec’s attorney said the accusations against his 80-year-old client are “unfounded.”

The Bishop who took over after Hogan and Adamec has responded to the report with decisive action. Bishop Mark Bartchak currently presides over the Roman Catholic Altoona Johnstown Diocese, and he immediately suspended every priest who was named in the report.

The report released today by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is the culmination of two years of extensive investigation done by the Attorney General’s Office, which brought the issue to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury in April of 2014. In response to the evidence presented by Kathleen Kane, the Grand Jury released the 147-page report with a slew of recommendations, including a request that the state General Assembly take another look at the statute of limitations on sex crimes, particularly those perpetrated against children.

The secret archive uncovered by Kathleen Kane’s investigation ultimately inculpated the Altoona Johnstown Diocese, and served as the cornerstone of the State’s investigation of the Roman Catholic Church. The archive reportedly included numerous files detailing the sexual misconduct perpetrated by the priests in question, as well as internal documents detailing the abuse endured by children in the Altoona Johnstown Diocese, and handwritten notes discussing the best course of action by Bishops Adamec and Hogan.

Altogether, there were somewhere around 115,000 documents containing detailed records of the abuse.

“This is by no means the end of our investigation. We will continue to look at this matter and consider charges where appropriate, which is why it is so important for those with information to come forward. At the very least, we must continue to shine a light on this long period of abuse and despicable conduct,” Kane said today, pleading with victims to come forward – even if their abusers may be beyond the reach of the criminal courts.

[Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images]