The news broke this afternoon about the latest Catholic Church scandal, which took place right in the Steel City’s backyard. There is documented evidence of the rampant abuse and cover-up in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calls it “staggering abuse”. The conservative Tribune-Review says “Priests sexually abused hundreds of children over decades”:
Hundreds of children were sexually abused over four decades by at least 50 priests or religious leaders of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, according to a statewide investigative grand jury report released Tuesday morning.
Clergy leaders allowed the abuse to continue by concealing it to protect the institution’s image, the grand jury alleged.
But none of the priests or supervisors were charged by the attorney general’s office, which supervised the two-year investigation. They could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations for the crimes expired, some of the priests died and some victims are too “deeply traumatized” to testify, the attorney general’s office said.
“As wolves disguised as the shepherds themselves – these men stole the innocence of children by sexually preying upon the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society and of the Catholic faith,” the grand jury report said.
Perhaps the most repugnant comments came from the church at the release of the details.
“This is a painful and difficult time in our Diocesan Church,” said the Most Rev. Mark L. Bartchak, Bishop of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. “I deeply regret any harm that has come to children, and I urge the faithful to join me in praying for all victims of abuse.”
Excuse me??? It is a painful time for your church??? You regret any harm??? Why not say we regret the terrible harm that has come to hundreds of boys under our watch? And, then your solution to this abuse is simply to pray for the victims??? How about: I am stepping down now and closing this church, as it clearly does not deserve your support after the terrible, illegal deeds that have been going on under our watch?
Enough is enough.
What other organization could weather this level of deceit and criminal activity? I hope parishioners wise up and leave in droves, while the Catholic Church looks at its own arcane policy of only hiring never-married, never-want-to-be married men as priests. By definition, they are drawing from a pool that will include individuals with abnormal desires and cravings. If instead, you put real mothers and real fathers in all leadership positions, including the priesthood, the problems would never reach the numbers we are seeing in Altoona-Johnstown.
If you also admit that your god, apparently, cannot protect your children in your house of worship, perhaps it is high time to re-think that whole g0d-thing and holy-book-thing and, instead, live in reality, where protection of the innocent takes actual caring of actual people on this actual planet.