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A grand jury report issued last week details abuse by dozens of Catholic leaders in the small communities of Altoona-Johnstown from the s to the s. The priest was Monor Francis McCaa, a commanding figure in the small Pennsylvania town of Ebensburg in his black cassock with the red buttons, and one of dozens of Catholic leaders named in a devastating report issued last week by a state grand jury detailing appalling child sex abuse in his diocese and a systematic cover-up by the church.
McCaa assaulted him there and also while the boy gave confession, at the Holy Name church where his family worshipped.
The community put Monor McCaa on a pedestal. Other priests named in the report worked in the past at the school, where Gergely recalls being subjected to tough corporal punishment. With a population of just 3, Ebensburg has been jolted by the horrifying details of past abuse in its midst.
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The grand jury report issued by Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane describes sex crimes committed on children from the s through the s all across the sprawling Altoona-Johnstown diocese that lies between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, involving more than 50 church leaders and hundreds of victims. And it reveals ly concealed church documents showing lists of secret payouts made to victims in the diocese.
The pattern of offenses, cover-ups and shuffling accused priests from parish to parish echoes the huge scandals already exposed in Boston, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in recent times. The report also establishes that church authorities in Altoona-Johnstown knew decades ago what was going on, as did some civic officials and senior figures in the criminal justice system. Many details came out in public in one of the few high-profile civil lawsuits in the early 90s, filed against Father Francis Luddy, a priest who served in both Altoona and Johnstown.
But instead of leaping into action, authorities in Pennsylvania did little, the report asserts, and there was relatively little public outcry. Now the extent of abuse in the diocese is being unveiled, though notably after the statute of limitations has expired for both criminal and civil action, and with many — but not all — of the perpetrators and their enablers already dead. Lying midway between Altoona and Johnstown in the Allegheny mountains, Ebensburg is typical of the many small communities across the diocese, steeped in the Catholic tradition and striving to prosper in the face of declining traditional industries, especially coal mining.
The investigation found 15 of his alleged victims, abused between and Hogan met with district attorney Gerald Long and assistant DA Patrick Kiniry, both now serving as judges in the area, the report says, though no charges were brought. McCaa was removed from the diocese and replaced with a priest who is also named in the report as a pedophile.
Gergely was at the courthouse in Ebensburg on Friday to witness three state lawmakers holding a small public event in the marbled vestibule to announce a call for more action. The three pledged to fight for legislation — which has been stuck for many years in committee in the state capital of Harrisburg— on whether to abolish the statute of limitations in civil cases involving child abuse.
They also plan to introduce a bill to create a special, two-year window allowing past victims to sue the church.
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The attorney general did not say the investigation is closed and there may be more to come. They estimate that in a single little town like this, McCaa affected a generation of. And people may not have realized the extent to which tears in the fabric of the community were ripped by McCaa and his ilk, Burns said. He said he had no reason to believe that abuse was not continuing after the period covered in the report and he hoped there would be further action.
Nationally, John Salveson, founder of the campaign group the Foundation to Abolish Child Abuse, and other activist groups, such as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests Snapare calling on Barack Obama to launch a federal investigation. But he is calling for a grand jury investigations in every diocese in Pennsylvania.
Rozzi recalls Graff telling the friend to wait, while he took Rizzo into the shower and raped him. Rozzi shoved the man off him and raced out of the shower, grabbing some clothes and yelling to his friend to flee.
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Father was screaming at us. They ran away, terrified. Rozzi became a star athlete at college, but suffered psychologically. He had appalling nightmares about being chased and raped by the priest, dreams which he tried to quell with marijuana.
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He credits his wife, whom he met at college, for helping to save his sanity. After unsuccessfully lobbying the state assembly, while in his thirties, to take action on child abuse, Rozzi ran for office himself. Three of his childhood friends who also suffered sexual abuse by priests have killed themselves, the most recent on Good Friday last year. Brian Gergely started drinking at 10 after he says he was groped by McCaa.
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Disappointing grades at school and two DUI convictions thwarted his ambition to become a lawyer. He is now a behavioral therapist for kids with special needs, has trouble keeping a girlfriend and is single, he said. Inhe tried to hang himself. The bishop who succeeded James Hogan, Joseph Adamec, who has since retired, testified to the grand jury.
He is excoriated in the report for failing to take action against numerous abusive priests, while ignoring victims. The report says church leaders sought to discredit victims and their families. Adamec was not at home on Friday evening at the address publicly listed for him in Hollidaysburg, near Altoona, and could not be reached for comment. But at his house next to the church where he is pastor in Altoona, Monor Michael Servinsky, 69, answered the door and spoke while standing in his hallway beneath portraits of the pope and the current bishop of the diocese.
Servinsky was cited in the grand jury report as having failed to notify law enforcement in and about two priests who admitted past abuse to him, one of boys the other of girls. He was very concerned about making sure the victims got covered [financially]. And they talk about Bishop Hogan manipulating the legal system. Two miles up the street, the basilica-style Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament overlooks downtown Altoona.
Around parishioners attended a Lent service there on Friday evening. But state lawmakers Burns, Rozzi and John Wozniak said the test of his sincerity would be what he and other leaders do now.
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If it could somehow help and protect people, then we should do it. I have a responsibility as a priest. This article is more than 5 years old. The cathedral church dome under a full moon in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
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Photograph: Alamy. Joanna Walters in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. Tue 8 Mar Gergely was 10 at the time.
Catholic bishops covered up 'hundreds' of sexual abuses in Pennsylvania. What should we do about paedophiles?
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Sophie Elmhirst. Topics Pennsylvania Catholicism Christianity Religion features. Reuse this content.