The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Parade of Horribles: The Altoona-Johnstown Report

The Investigative Grand Jury of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has released a report on sexual abuse and its cover up in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. It's a shocker, even to my jaundiced eyes, and well worth your attention.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report:
Hundreds of children were molested, raped and destined to lasting psychological trauma by clerics whose abuses were covered up by their bishops, other superiors and even compliant law-enforcement officials in Blair and Cambria counties, the report said.

The conspiracy amounted to “soul murder,” the report said, with abuse happening everywhere from camps and homes to the historic cathedral itself. That description echoes that of similar grand jury probes into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2005 and 2011 that found cardinals and other clerics shifted numerous known abusers from one unsuspecting parish to another.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane called it a “day of reckoning” for abusers and their enablers but lamented that no one could be criminally charged.

That was because the abuse happened too long ago to be prosecuted under the statute of limitations in effect at that time, or because the perpetrators had died or the victims were too traumatized to testify. But Ms. Kane said the investigation is ongoing and that anyone with information should call 1-888-538-8541.

“These findings are both staggering and sobering,” said the grand jury report. “Over many years hundreds of children have fallen victim to child predators wrapped in the authority and integrity of an honorable faith. As wolves disguised as the shepherds themselves — these men stole the innocence of children by sexually preying upon the most innocent and vulnerable .... ”

Much of the abuse happened between the 1940s and 1980s, according to the report, but many of the victims came forward in more recent decades to report the priest to the diocese.

The two previous bishops leading the diocese — James Hogan, who served from 1966 to 1986 and died in 2005, and Joseph Adamec, who served from 1987 to 2011 and is now retired — “took actions that further endangered children as they placed their desire to avoid public scandal over the well-being of innocent children,” the report said. “Priests were returned to ministry with full knowledge they were child predators.”
And so another skein of cover-up and clericalism is slowly, painfully unwound.

In 2012, I traced the phenomenon of this cover up back to its roots in the conflict between Thomas Becket and Henry II, and the rationales provided for suppressing the truth to preserve the institutional power of the Church articulated by John Henry Newman in his The Via Media. The argument I made in Command and Coercion has since been echoed as to Becket, and no refutation of my claims has been made that I can find.

At the end of the final published version, I wrote then that it was time for the ghost of Thomas Becket to be laid.

The exorcism is yet to come.

Lord have mercy.

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