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Diocese hid hundreds of child sex abuse cases, Pennsylvania grand jury says

By Ed Adamczyk Follow @adamczyk_ed Contact the Author   |   March 2, 2016 at 12:59 PM

ALTOONA , Pa., March 2 (UPI) -- Hundreds of children were molested and raped by Catholic clerics in Altoona, Pa., and church superiors covered up the crimes, a grand jury found.

The 147-page report was released Tuesday by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who said none of the accused would be criminally charged because of statute of limitations, the deaths of alleged perpetrators or the traumatization of victims. Much of the abuse reported in the case occurred between the 1940s and the 1980s, with many of the victims coming forward recently.

The grand jury's findings ended a two-year investigation.

"These finding are both staggering and sobering. Over many years, hundreds of children have fallen victim to child predators wrapped in the authority and integrity of an honorable faith...This grand jury further found that the actions of Bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec failed to protect children entrusted to their care and guidance. Worse yet, these men took actions that further endangered children as they placed their desire to avoid public scandal over the well-being of innocent children. Priests were returned to the ministry with full knowledge they were child predators."

Hogan served as bishop from 1966 to 1986; he died in 2005. Adamec served from 1987 to 2011 and is retired. He declined to testify before the grand jury, but a 10-page statement from his lawyer indicates Adamec's belief that key information was omitted from the report.

County law enforcement officials allowed the diocese to handle matters of abuse internally, rather than prosecuting them, because of the actions of Monsignor Philp Saylor, who the report said had the powers of a political boss. It quoted Peter Starr, former Altoona police chief, who said, "Politicians of Blair County were afraid of Monsignor Saylor."

The report also condemned Adamec's 1992 statement in the dismissal of a lawsuit charging the Rev. Francis Luddy, who Adamec knew "with certainty... had admitted to molesting the very children for whom the bishop bore the most responsibility."

It said the diocese was aware Luddy molested at least 10 children.

The grand jury recommended the removal of statutes of limitiations for any future child abuse criminal cases, as well as a definite window of opportunity to pursue civil suits for past abuse.

The report comes as the Catholic Church, worldwide, is acknowledging misgivings in its handling of child abuse matters. An Australian Catholic leader, Cardinal George Pell, said earlier this week, "The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those, but the church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down."

The issue is also a topic of universal concern. The film Spotlight, about the journalists who covered a sex abuse scandal in Boston, was chosen as the year's best film at the Academy Awards on Sunday.

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