Skip to comments.New sex-abuse bombshell: Time bishop [Adamec of Altoona-Johnstown] comes clean
Posted on 06/24/2002 6:53:00 AM PDT by Polycarp
June 23, 2002
New sex-abuse bombshell--
10 local priests tied to cases
By Susan Evans
Officials of Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese have known of at least 10 priests implicated in sex abuse cases involving hundreds of young boys, according to public records reviewed by the Tribune-Democrat.
But the offenders remained in the priesthood, and the diocese meted out such mild punishments as transfers, therapy or rest and recreation.
Not one criminal report was made. Not one priest was arrested.
Only one offender was defrocked Francis Luddy and that came only after a trial and a $2 million-plus assessment against the Church.
Most incidents occurred while now-retired James Hogan was bishop.
But Joseph Adamec, bishop since 1987, has consistently denied a widespread problem, calling the Luddy trial an isolated case.
In the meantime, testimony about rampant pedophilia was being whispered privately to Blair County Jude Hiram Carpenter behind closed doors.
Records also show that police knew of the sex scandals but discussed them discreetly with diocese officials instead of making arrests.
More cases emerge
This is the portrait of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese that emerges from an examination of court documents in the 1994 sex abuse trial of now-defrocked Luddy.
The trial is of significance in the context of the national church sex scandal and the disciplinary actions against priests now mandated by the new national bishops policy adopted June 15 at its historic meeting in Dallas.
Although the Luddy trial made daily headlines, not all was told in the public courtroom.
But closed-door meetings are part of the public record, which the Tribune-Democrat recently reviewed.
These are some cases, discussed either publicly or privately in judges chambers, or both:
*James Skupien, priest and principal of Bishop Guilfoyle High-School in Altoona, was caught naked in his car with a young man. He remained at the school and since has died.
*Dennis Coleman, a priest in Bellefonte, was hypnotizing boys, removing their shoes and rubbing his penis on their feet. He was told to get some rest and recreation and was transferred to St. Benedicts Church in Geistown. He was suspended after Hogan retired in 1987.
The father of one of Colemans victims was a state trooper, who threatened to shoot Coleman, records show, but criminal charges werent filed.
*Thomas Carroll, a priest in Altoona, abused boys and was sent to a psychiatrist, but remained a priest until he died in 1988.
*Joseph Gaborek, a priest in Somerset County, fondled boys in 1984. State police reported it to Hogan, but charges were never filed. Hogan told Gaborek to keep his big mouth shut.
Gaborek was suspended after Hogan retired in 1987.
*William Kovach, a priest in Revloc, molested a boy in 1982. He showed the boy pornographic movies, fondled him and performed oral sex. The parents wanted confidentiality, say court records. Kovach remained a priest and since has retired.
The trial records contain references to Francis McCaa, an Ebensburg priest whose sexual molestation of altar boys led to a private financial settlement, and another unnamed priest with a similar settlement. Both are now retired.
After the trial, Joseph Strittmatter, a retired Altoona priest, was sued by a woman who contends he molested her from the ages of 6 to 14.
Luddy, the defendant in the trial, was found to have sexually molested boys and later defrocked.
Even now, Adamec says he is investigating two new complaints and that, under the terms of the new national bishops policy, he must remove or otherwise punish at least one or two more priests.
Such an admission breaks the dioceses tradition of shrouding scandals with secrecy, as the Luddy trial shows.
Details come out
The trial began Jan. 31, 1994.
Three months later, the jury found Luddy guilty of sexual abuse and the diocese negligent for ignoring accusations of sexual abuse.
But the jury and the public didnt know everything.
Msgr. Phillip P. Saylor did, and thats why the diocese didnt want him to testify publicly, diocese attorneys told Carpenter.
During a private session March 18, 1994, in Carpenters office, the record shows that the diocese tried to block Saylors testimony.
Saylor, former pastor at St. John Gualbert Cathedral in Johnstown and editor of the Catholic Register newspaper for 11 years, was a high-ranking diocese official.
The diocese attorney told the judge he was worried about Saylor testifying because one priest was threatening to commit suicide. Saylor had been called to testify in the cases of Coleman, Carroll and Skupien.
The diocese attorney said that the Coleman case involved two or three boys who were allegedly hypnotized by Father Coleman, and there was some masturbation, or something going on.
The diocese attorney told the judge that Hogan removed the priest and told him to take a little sabbatical, a little R and R., and he came back to the parish in October.
Carroll had been sent to a psychiatrist for his misconduct, the diocese attorney told the judge.
The attorney said Skupien was principal of Bishop Guilfoyle from 1977 to 1984.
In 1981, Dean Township police Officer David Metzgar found Skupien and a juvenile undressed in a car. Skupien continued to act as a principal and a priest, the attorney said.
The diocese told the judge that Skupien had an alcohol problem, and that is why he was removed from the school.
Father Skupien is a homosexual and is now attempting to not be an active homosexual because he knows if he does hes going to be removed. He does not involve himself with pedophiles, the diocese attorney said.
The diocese wanted all of Saylors testimony kept in chambers with a calm, little hearing instead of exposing a lot of peoples names to the jury.
The judge called Saylor into his chambers and questioned him about the Skupien case.
Saylor said that Blair County Sheriff Larry Field, a personal friend, was a photographer in 1981 when the incident occurred.
He (Field) indicated to me that the policeman in Dean Township had observed a car down in the woods up on Wopsononock Mountain, and that this policeman discovered that the people in the car were unclothed, Saylor told the judge.
And when he called in the license number, the license number was registered to the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, he testified in the closed-door hearing.
Saylor said he met with Metzgar, who verified that the car occupants were Skupien and a young man the officer was familiar with from another case.
I went to Bishop Hogan and told him about it and he asked me if I thought that policeman was a Catholic, and I said no, he was not. And that the policeman was very reluctant to come forward, and he asked me if I could persuade him (the officer) to come see him, so I contacted him (the officer) again and he agreed that he would go to see the bishop.
So then the bishop asked me to ask him if he would come in on a holy day when nobody else was in the chancery, so they wouldnt see the policeman coming in.
Saylor told the judge that Hogan talked to Skupien and then told Saylor there was nothing to it because Father Skupien explained the situation and the explanation was this:
He was on a farm up on the mountain with this boy and he was riding a tractor and the tractor upset and he fell into a pond of water.
And when the policeman came along he was just simply changing his clothes, because the clothes were wet and I remember saying to the bishop you know, then why was the boy changing his clothes, you know. Uh, well, maybe he fell in the pond, too.
I can remember saying to the bishop, I said bishop, you cant be serious.
The judge suggested bringing in the Dean Township officer, but the attorneys said he was a reluctant witness.
Hes out of state and he informed me yesterday that it was still something he didnt want to come forward on and be the one to nail a priest, said the attorney.
If the court ordered Metzgar to appear, He said hed make himself lost.
The attorney said Metzgar had no doubt that the boy in the car was a juvenile.
(When contacted for this article, Metzgar, now a constable in Blair County, said he was not subpoenaed in the Luddy trial. He confirmed that he told the diocese about the Skupien incident.
The diocese attorney challenged the testimony, saying there was no proof that the boy was a minor.
So it never went before a jury.
Saylor also told about Coleman and Carroll, saying parents complained about molestation.
Saylor said he sent Carroll to a psychiatrist when complaints were made about him.
Saylor also recounted police surveillance done by former Altoona police Chief Peter Starr, who developed a list of priests observed picking up young boys near 14th Street. (When contacted for this story, Starr deferred to the court record and said he had no additional comment.)
Saylor told of four boys who were molested in a basement in Altoona, and how the diocese warned a priest to leave the state that night and then allowed him to come back and stay in the diocese.
In each case, top diocese officials, including Hogan, were told, he said.
Hogan testified that state police contacted him about one priest, and that an unnamed Logan Township police officer, and brother of a top-ranking monsignor, contacted him about another.
He said he got help for the priests and kept notes on their misconduct, using a series of dots instead of words in some sentences.
He read one note on court: Father would engage in immoral familiarity, for example, double beds were never used. Car or basement. Expose and fondle. He with the lad asking the lad to .
The plaintiffs attorney pressed him on what four dots or three dots meant.
The bishop responded that they were symbols for various sex acts.
The trial is over, but legal wrangling goes on.
The diocese is appealing the $1 million in punitive damages awarded by the jury.
Carpenter upheld the punitive award, saying it represented just four months profit for the diocese.
And, he said, the testimony overwhelmingly showed negligence.
Even where sexual molestation was not proven in the criminal sense, the diocese either admitted that it occurred or did not deny that it occurred, the judge said.
Thats why, he said, the diocese could not argue against the punitive verdict with a straight face.
Diocese officials did not return phone calls requesting comment on the Luddy trial.
George Foster, a conservative Catholic leader and an Altoona businessman who is also a critic of Adamec, said a retrospective of the Luddy trial shows the deception that has taken place.
Catholics in this diocese were led to believe that the Luddy case was an isolated incident. We were deceived. As a Catholic, we should never have gone to court. The fact that we scandalized our diocese when we were wrong is beyond comprehension.
Foster said he was shocked at the number of priests mentioned in the court documents.
Im blown out of my socks.
|Time bishop comes clean
|Its hard to say what has been more disturbing:
The number of incidents in which Roman Catholic priests have been accused of sexual abuse of children, including newly released records disclosing how hundreds of young boys have been exploited in the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese.
The number of times bishops in our region and throughout the U.S. have covered up those incidents.
At least 300 civil lawsuits alleging clerical sex abuse have been filed in 16 states since January. Nearly 250 of the nations more than 46,000 Roman Catholic priests have either been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the scandal began in January, when the case of a pedophile priest in Boston spurred claims from other victims.
Top U.S. leaders of the Church, including Bishop Joseph Adamec of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, met last week in Dallas to address the crisis. As a result of that meeting, the bishops agreed on a nationwide policy that would require all dioceses to report allegations of child sexual abuse to authorities.
The bishops did not accept a strict zero tolerance policy toward priests who commit abuse, as some had hoped, and couldnt agree on the most troubling of issues: Whether the policy applies toward past offenders and to past behavior.
But the conference did represent a good first step in acknowledging the problem of pedophile priests. Survivors agonizing accounts and the enormous pressures of financial and legal consequences of pending litigation almost forced the bishops to agree on a policy going forward.
Unfortunately, since the Dallas conference, stories come out daily about bishops involvement in cover-ups. Some estimate as many as two-thirds of the U.S. bishops may have been involved in masking incidents of child sexual abuse, by shifting a priest to a new parish or a new ministry. This is the real scandal for the Roman Catholic Church.
Unfortunately, the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese is not an exception by its violation of trust and its lack of accountability by bishops. Before retiring in 1987, Bishop James J. Hogan presided over a series of incidents by various priests that should have resulted in criminal prosecutions and defrockments. Instead, as staff writer Susan Evans reports on Page 1 today, not one criminal report was made and not one priest was arrested. Only after a long trial and a $2 million-plus verdict was Francis Luddy defrocked.
Hogan repeatedly covered up each incident reported by police, other priests and parishioners, even to the extent of denying their occurrence. None of the information was ever made public, although court documents of closed-door sessions in the judges chambers in the 1994 Luddy sexual abuse case detail the incidents.
It is in-your-face obvious that the Luddy case was hardly an isolated incident, as Adamec has consistently contended. He says the diocese has adopted stricter standards for removing accused priests and has agreed to report allegations of sexual abuse to authorities. The diocese has also appointed an independent panel to review claims against priests.
But there is still a long way to go. Upon returning from Dallas, Adamec declined to be totally truthful about priests who had been removed in the months leading up to the conference. As bishop, Adamec has the ultimate authority and responsibility for the diocese, yet he wasnt exactly sure how many priests were removed. That is simply unbelievable.
Adamec, and all other bishops in the Church, have an obligation to their faithful as well as to their priests. Protecting priests who commit these horrid acts by not identifying them or hiding behind the criminal statutes of limitations does nothing to regain the lost trust and confidence.
Healing can only begin with honesty.
©Tribune Democrat 2002
Although the Luddy trial made daily headlines, not all was told in the public courtroom. But closed-door meetings are part of the public record, which the Tribune-Democrat recently reviewed.We should expect more and more investigative reporting of this type in the near future as journalists review past trials. Bring it on.
BTW, Polycarp, this story ought to make the billboard you guys put up in view of Adamec's residence look downright prophetic. Good work!
Oh - he's been sodomizing teenage boys again? Yes, yes. Let's send him on a little gay cruise, where he can have homosexual sex with lots of men. Priests have got to play, right? When he comes back, he probably wait at least a week before he starts over with the boys again. But, of course, we can always more him to another parish. Got to keep the supply of boys fresh... Got to keep our active homosexual priests happy...
So, just like the Church, the police put the welfare of children dead LAST.
Nice headline! Sheesh!
Oh, no! I might have to stop going out to the gay bars and buggering men in their rear ends. Nobody told me that was required to be a Catholic priest. So unfair. I need that! It won't be fun to be a priest anymore. - But at least I think I can keep my stash of homosexual pornography and my pictures of naked boys and men on the computer. Oh, yeah. Nobody will take those away from me, will they? (Well, actually, probably not.)
I can only pray so, and I heartily congratulate you Polycarp and all of the others in Altoona for putting up that marvellous billboard and for holding the bishop's feet to the fire.
To think of how much he lied is simply staggering. But we knew he was a rotten soul on the side of the devils already. It still shocks me though to see the depth of the depravity exposed. God save the Church!
I grieve for so many boys who have lost their faith in God. These sex-obsessed priests probably gave little thought to their clerical duties. Their minds were plotting their next conquest, probably even during masses, weddings, and funerals.
He should be removed and defrocked.
This thread's a little confusing to me. It appears that most of these cases occured prior to the tenure of Bishop Adamec. Precisely for what is the bishop being taken to task?
Five cases are directly cited in the first part of the article, and it appears that only one case persisted significantly into Bishop Adamec's tenure as bishop. Apparently, the bishop is on record admitting that this case was poorly handled, and that is why he referred to it as an isolated case.
The details are sketchy regarding one case, Fr. Kovach. It isn't stated when he ceased to function as a priest. A great deal is related about the case of Fr. Skupien. It's clear that the prior bishop of this diocese was at fault to permit him to continue to serve as principal of Bishop Guilfoyle HS from 1977 - 1984. However, Bishop Adamec didn't take over until 1987. What ultimately became of Fr. Skupien, and when?
Regarding the testimonly of Msgr. Saylor, though it's clear it was given in 1994, it isn't at all clear what was the timeframe about which he was testifying. It's clear that he's relating some events from the early 1980s, but it isn't clear when is the endpoint of his testimony.
Is the bishop being taken to task for not revealing cases which occured under the prior Ordinary?
In the following editorial, the paper says:
"But there is still a long way to go. Upon returning from Dallas, Adamec declined to be totally truthful about priests who had been removed in the months leading up to the conference. As bishop, Adamec has the ultimate authority and responsibility for the diocese, yet he wasnt exactly sure how many priests were removed. That is simply unbelievable."
Okay. That sounds interesting. But nothing is reported here about the cases which led to recent removal. What's the story here?
Are there cases of priests who were found to be molestors in the timeframe after Bishop Adamec became bishop? Can you relate any information about that?
Polycarp, it seems that the newspaper story that you've posted here is leaving out some critical information, which may be common knowledge to people of your own diocese, but is not common knowledge to folks outside of the diocese, like me. Can you fill in some of the blanks?
Love your screen name. A few years ago, I read a fascinating biography of St. Thomas More. I remember the impression made on me by the movie "A Man for All Seasons".
As for Fr. Skupien being defrocked, it's a little late. He's dead.
I love the Catholic Church, and I can't imagine life without the Sacraments...but I honestly don't know how much longer I can stay in a Church governed by these evil bastards. I pray the Pope moves to start removing them now. This can not be ignored and can not be allowed to go on much longer.
That's pretty weird. That's only the second time I've heard that particular fetish mentioned.
The first was several years' ago while at a retreat at a Monestary in W. Hartford.
After a several talks, we were encouraged to have one-on-one chats w/ various priests.
Cool idea, as I looked forward to chatting about life and things spiritual.
In the middle of our conversation, and out-of-the-blue, Father B. asked me if I thought there was anything wrong with a priest doing what is described above, as long as he didn't do it in a "sexual" way.
I'm not sure what I said, as I was just thinking of a way to wrap up the conversation and get out of there. (I assumed he wasn't talking about me, but about young boys in his past).
Of course I couldn't tell the priest in charge of the retreat - who would believe me? It was just too darn freaky. I let it go as just one strange priest, and stayed far away from him thereafter. Apparently there were others who shared his strange fetish.
Those poor young boys - how sad for all involved.
Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird...
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities..."
Revelation 18:2, 4-5
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