HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Attorney General Kathleen Kane detailed stories of alleged abuse against children in the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Tuesday that made people cringe.
“Which would start with wrestling, which then turned into massages and then attempts to grab the boys’ genitals,” Kane said. “This boy twice attempted suicide.”
More than 50 priests are accused of sexually abusing hundreds of children over at least 40 years from the 1950s to the late 90s. Although Kane graphically detailed victims’ stories, she felt it necessary for people to understand their state of mind.
“It’s important that the victims’ stories are heard because it’s important for the horror that they felt for us to feel,” she said.
Kane said prosecuting the priests is no longer an option because the statute of limitations has expired.
Harrisburg attorney Ben Andreozzi, who represented victims involved in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, said the Altoona diocese is the latest example of why lawmakers must revisit Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations laws.
“Why are people opposing statutes of limitations reform when it’s these exact statutes that allow people to hide behind closed doors?” he said.
Andreozzi believes the Catholic church still has strong lobbyists who push lawmakers to avoid reforms.
“It is important to hold institutions to the highest level of accountability,” he said.
Andreozzi said the timing of the attorney general’s announcement is off the heels of “Spotlight” winning the Academy Award for Best Film. The film portrays the Boston Globe journalists who uncovered the largest priest sex abuse scandal in 2002.
Several major metropolitan Catholic dioceses have had similar shakeups since, including Philadelphia.
Andreozzi was stunned to read the grand jury’s report that stated law enforcement, judges, and possibly lawmakers helped the Altoona-Johnstown diocese cover up the alleged abuse.
“That they punted back to the diocese to handle these cases, that’s extremely troubling,” he said.
Andreozzi also acknowledged the amounts of cash that flowed to cover up the actions was equally as appalling as the suspected abuse. Kane detailed a scale of hush money that would range from $10,000 for over the pants rubbing of genitals to $175,000 for sex or sodomy with children.
Many of the crimes were documented in “secret archives” that were under lock-and-key by bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec, according to prosecutors.
“Another canon states documents are not to be removed from the secret archive or safe,” Kane said.
Andreozzi said American justice may be blind, but divine justice sees all.
“The second that the church decided that it cared more about its reputation in Altoona rather than protecting children is where we fall into these pitfalls,” he said.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download the ABC 27 News App and the ABC 27 Weather App for your phone or tablet.