Category Archives: Altoona Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese
Ebensburg man, child abuse victims advocate, takes own life
- Jul 6, 2016
From the Link: http://www.tribdem.com/news/local_news/ebensburg-man-child-abuse-victims-advocate-takes-own-life/article_1304b550-d75a-5ea0-b3a1-d88902c61fe3.html
A onetime sexual abuse victim who has spoken out about clergy abuse in the diocese has died.
Brian Gergely, 46, was found dead July 1 inside his Ebensburg home of a self-inflicted injury, Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees said Tuesday.
The Ebensburg man died of asphyxiation, he said.
Gergely was a 1988 graduate of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, where he was a standout running back for the football team.
Over the years, he worked as a behavioral health specialist and therapeutic support staffer who spent years counseling youth.
In recent years, he went public about abuse he suffered in the 1980s at the hands of his church’s former priest, the Rev. Francis McCaa. Gergely said he hoped his willingness to speak out would encourage others to step forward and begin to overcome their own private struggles.
In its March 1 report of widespread child sexual abuse by clergy across the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese, the state attorney general’s office called McCaa “a monster” who groped and “fondled the genitals of numerous children” who attended or served at Holy Name Church in Ebensburg.
The report estimated that McCaa’s victims numbered “in the hundreds.” McCaa died in 2007.
‘He was a monster’: how priest child abuse tore apart Pennsylvania towns
A grand jury report issued last week details abuse by dozens of Catholic leaders in the small communities of Altoona-Johnstown from the 1950s to the 1990s
Joanna Walters in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania
Tuesday 8 March 2016 07.30 EST
One of Brian Gergely’s fellow altar boys had a code he would use to signal danger in the room where they and the priest prepared for mass.
“He would say ‘red buttons’, and that was the alert that the priest was coming up behind you, and we would try to get away from him, running around the desk in the middle of the room where he kept the chalices, the host and the wine,” said Gergely, 46.
Gergely was 10 at the time.
Catholic parishioners urged to help defeat SOL reform; one parishioner walks out of Mass
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on June 06, 2016 at 5:20 PM, updated June 07, 2016 at 6:55 PM
From the Link: http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/06/catholic_child_sex_crimes_law.html#comments
Catholic parishioners across the state this past weekend were read a letter urging them to encourage their state lawmakers to defeat a bill that would amend the state’s child sex crime laws. House Bill 1947, which is now in the hands of the Senate, would reform the statute of limitations.
At 72, Nancy O’Brien has been a devout Catholic all her life.
On Sunday, O’Brien walked out of Mass in disgust. She did so after her priest at St. Anthony of Padua in Ambler, just outside Philadelphia, read a letter from the head of the archdiocese encouraging parishioners to help defeat a proposed legislation that would reform the state’s child sex crimes.
St. Anthony’s wasn’t the only parish to receive the letter. All 219 parishes across Philadelphia were read the letter from Archbishop Charles Chaput urging them to contact their lawmakers by mail or telephone and encourage them to vote against House Bill 1947, which would reform the statute of limitations.
“It was bull (expletive),” O’Brien said on Monday. “I don’t have to listen to this bull (expletive) anymore. I’ve been a practicing Catholic all my life. I’m not going to be anything else. I thought it was an insult. I know what’s been going on.”
House Bill 1947, which was approved in the House by a near-unanimous vote in April, is slated to be taken up for a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee next Monday.
In his letter, which was provided in English and Spanish, Chaput argues that the bill “poses serious dangers” to all parishes, ministries, charities and schools. He urges parishioners to write or telephone their local state senator and members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against HB 1947, especially any retroactivity provision in the civil statute of limitation covering sexual abuse.
“All of us are rightly angered by the crime of sexual abuse,” Chaput writes. “Over the past decade the Church has worked very hard to support survivors in their healing, to protect our children and to root this crime out of Church life. But HB 1947 and bills like it are destructive legislation being advanced as a good solution. The problem with HB 1947 is its prejudicial content. It covers both public and religious institutions — but in drastically different and unjust ways. The bill fails to support all survivors of abuse equally, and it’s a clear attack on the Church, her parishes and her people.”
In addition, parish priests also distributed inserts in both languages, explaining the statute of limitations issue, as well as steps the Philadelphia Archdiocese has taken to address clergy sex abuse and the needs of victims. The second document outlined the negative impact the bill would have on parishes, schools, and charitable ministries.
Ken Gavin, spokesman for the archdiocese, said the reading of the letter was not a mandate.
“The Archbishop requested that pastors do this and strongly encouraged it, but he did not mandate it,” he said.
The main provisions of House Bill 1947 include:
- The elimination of criminal statutes on future sex crimes against children;
- A 20-year extension to the current civil time limit (to age 50 for victims under 50)
- The waiving of sovereign immunity for state and local public institutions (such as public schools) in cases of gross negligence.
- A retroactive component that would allows past victims of child sex abuse to file civil claims up to the age of 50. (Under current law, victims of child sexual abuse are barred from seeking civil action after they reach the age of 30.)
Gavin said efforts by the Catholic Church to reform the law and to help victims are often overlooked in the conversation on reform.
“As people learn more about HB1947 and what the Church has done for more than a decade to help survivors of abuse and prevent child abuse, they’re seeing that the Church has done more in these areas of reform than any other private or public institution,” he said. “They’re also seeing that the currently proposed legislation excludes the many victims who suffered abuse in public institutions and that it holds public and private institutions to drastically different standards for the same bad acts.”
Requests for information from the Harrisburg Diocese and the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese were not immediately granted Monday.
Monsignor Stephen P. McHenry, senior pastor at St. Anthony of Padua, said he read the archbishop’s message because he agrees that the legislation is flawed – primarily its lack of uniformity in its retroactive provisions.
“I don’t think that’s fair legislation,” McHenry said. “I don’t think it’s a good bill. If abuse is as bad as it is and it is, everybody should have coverage.”
McHenry said he has been dealing with the clergy sex abuse scandal since 2002, the year of the first grand jury report showing widespread clergy sex abuse and its cover-up by church officials.
“I know some of those priests and the people abused,” he said. “It’s been a very, very bad period for over 10 years but I do think we are trying to do things to be helpful. I think there is need for legislation but I don’t think this is the legislation.”
McHenry has written to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, asking him to amend the bill so it has a wider scope or write new legislation.
He said he is aware that some of his parishioners feel strongly about reform.
“I think some of my parishioners have experience with the people that were abused,” McHenry said. “They would like the church to have to pay big penalties so that it understands it did a very bad thing. I understand that viewpoint but this viewing of only singling out certain groups and not extending it to every child, I don’t think it’s good.”
In his letter, Chaput echoes a long-held stance by the church – particularly its legislative branch, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – that the bill would have a catastrophic financial impact on the archdiocese.
Private and religious entities, he argued, would face “unlimited liability for exactly the same evil actions,” and not just going forward, but also in the past.
“This is not justice,” Chaput writes. “In fact, HB 1947 actually excludes most victims. And it also targets innocent Catholic parishes and families, like your own, who will bear the financial burden of crimes committed by bad individuals in the past, along with the heavy penalties that always result from these bad bills.”
The archdiocese, like scores of other dioceses across the country, was rocked by grand jury investigations that found decades of widespread clergy sex abuse and its cover-up by church officials. Earlier this year, the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese became the latest diocese in Pennsylvania to be investigated for allegations of clergy sex abuse. A grand jury investigation out of the diocese found patterns now similar across other diocese – that of years of the abuse of children at the hands of diocesan priests and the cover-up of the abuse by church leaders.
O’Brien, a member of Voice of the Faithful, a reform advocacy group, anticipates the church is not going to let up trying to defeat the bill. She said she would continue going to Mass – noting that attendance at her parish is on the decline.
“They say we are so afraid we won’t be able to help the poor,” she said. “Give me a break. They could care less about the poor. I’ve seen so many people get hurt by their refusal to do anything.”
Gerald T. Slevin, Update–Criminal Charges of Vatican Child Abuse Cover-Up
Monday, April 16, 2012
Cross-posted on Open Tabernacle, 16 April 2012.
Los Gatos Priest Beating Case Trial Date Now Changed to June
Pretrial motion Friday postponed until May 3, with jury selection taking place May 14 and presentation of evidence June 19.
By Sheila Sanchez April 7, 2012
Friday’s scheduled pretrial motions in the case against a San Francisco man accused of beating a priest at the Los Gatos Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in May of 2010 have been postponed until 9 a.m., May 3.
William Lynch, 44, has been arraigned on one count of felony assault with intent to cause great bodily injury and one count of elder abuse under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
The scheduled hearing was changed since presiding Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena is tied up with a homicide trial that is running longer than expected.
The pretrial motions hearing, a time for any legal issue that will arise during the high-profile trial to be addressed by the prosecution and the defense, will be followed by jury selection May 14
The presentation of the evidence is expected to start on or around June 19, instead of the earlier reported date of May 29, said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Gemetti.
Jury selection will be performed using jury questionnaires with potential jurors being called in to court and given the document to fill out and then reviewed by the attorneys.
Counsel will then meet and discuss which jurors need to be questioned for so-called “cause,” necessary in every trial to weed down the full veneer of potential jurors to the 12 jurors and alternates who will sit on the case, explained Gemetti.
Attorneys will question the jurors for any biases or any impediments to sit for “cause,” such as someone having been convicted of a similar crime or who may have a family member working in the DA’s office or law enforcement and their objectivity is compromised.
After the panel has been passed for cause, meaning there are no legal reasons why the jurors can’t sit on the case, each attorney will have 10 pre-emptory challenges that can be exercised and they’ll go back and forth to determine which jurors will be sworn in, Gemetti added.
The proceedings are taking place in Judge Cena’s courtroom, department 34 of the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice in San Jose.
“Once we’ve sworn the jury in … we’re going to stick to that schedule to the best of our abilities,” Gemetti said about the delays in the trial start date. “Obviously trials are fluid and things may change and emergencies do happen, but … once we have those 12 people and they’re told the dates, things won’t change too much.”
The questionnaire presented to the jurors will probably be several pages long containing a list of questions and topics, some inquiries from the court and some submitted by the defense and the prosecution.
Lynch is being represented by Pat Harris and Mark Geragos, with the Los Angeles-based law firm of Geragos & Geragos.
Authorities say he walked into the center’s reception area the afternoon of May 10, 2010 and asked to speak to Father Jerold Lindner. He said he had a death notification about a member of the priest’s family and then allegedly assaulted him.
The case is being closely watched by critics of the Roman Catholic Church who allege Lindner raped and sodomized Lynch and his brother when they were small boys in the ’70s while on camping trips.
If a jury convicts Lynch, he’s could serve a maximum of four years in state prison. The court, however, could grant him probation and give him up to one year in county jail, Gemetti said.
“We have been ready for trial for quite some time,” Gemetti said. “I’m quite anxious to get the matter proceeding.”