Category Archives: Drug Abuse

‘He was a monster’: how priest child abuse tore apart Pennsylvania towns


‘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

in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania
Tuesday 8 March 2016

From the Link: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/08/catholic-priest-child-sex-abuse-ebensburg-pennsylvania

In 2003, Brian Gergely, right, and Kevin Hoover show old photographs of themselves during a news conference in Altoona, Pa. They said the pictures were taken during the time they allege a Roman Catholic priest sexually abused them while they were altar boys. The men, along with three others, sued the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh, Bishop Joseph Adamec, and former Bishop Joseph Hogan, claiming the church should have known about the abuse and was negligent. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

In 2003, Brian Gergely, right, and Kevin Hoover show old photographs of themselves during a news conference in Altoona, Pa. They said the pictures were taken during the time they allege a Roman Catholic priest sexually abused them while they were altar boys. The men, along with three others, sued the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh, Bishop Joseph Adamec, and former Bishop Joseph Hogan, claiming the church should have known about the abuse and was negligent. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

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.

The priest was Monsignor Francis McCaa, a commanding figure in the small Pennsylvania town of Ebensburg in his black cassock with the red buttons, and one of dozens of Catholic leaders named in a devastating report issued last week by a state grand jury detailing appalling child sex abuse in his diocese and a systematic cover-up by the church.

“I was standing in the sacristy and he pinned me to the desk. I was just a little guy,” Gergely said. McCaa assaulted him there and also while the boy gave confession, at the Holy Name church where his family worshipped.

“My parents were patrons,” Gergely said. “They were going door to door raising money for the church. The community put Monsignor McCaa on a pedestal.”

Other priests named in the report worked in the past at the school, where Gergely recalls being subjected to tough corporal punishment.

With a population of just 3,300, Ebensburg has been jolted by the horrifying details of past abuse in its midst. The grand jury report issued by Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane describes sex crimes committed on children from the 1950s through the 1990s all across the sprawling Altoona-Johnstown diocese that lies between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, involving more than 50 church leaders and hundreds of victims. And it reveals previously concealed church documents showing lists of secret payouts made to victims in the diocese.

Bishop Joseph Adamec

Bishop Joseph Adamec

The pattern of offenses, cover-ups and shuffling accused priests from parish to parish echoes the huge scandals already exposed in Boston, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in recent times.

The report also establishes that church authorities in Altoona-Johnstown knew decades ago what was going on, as did some civic officials and senior figures in the criminal justice system. Many details came out in public in one of the few high-profile civil lawsuits in the early 90s, filed against Father Francis Luddy, a priest who served in both Altoona and Johnstown.

But instead of leaping into action, authorities in Pennsylvania did little, the report asserts, and there was relatively little public outcry.

Now the extent of abuse in the diocese is being unveiled, though notably after the statute of limitations has expired for both criminal and civil action, and with many – but not all – of the perpetrators and their enablers already dead.

Lying midway between Altoona and Johnstown in the Allegheny mountains, Ebensburg is typical of the many small communities across the diocese, steeped in the Catholic tradition and striving to prosper in the face of declining traditional industries, especially coal mining.

McCaa’s reported depravity on his young flock stands out.

“Father Francis McCaa was a monster,” the grand jury stated.

The investigation found 15 of his alleged victims, abused between 1961 and 1985.

Bishop Mark Bartchak

Bishop Mark Bartchak

“In some cases children tried to report their abuse to their parents … but were not believed … the grand jury aches at hearing the hopelessness these victims felt when being offended on by a pastor they were taught to respect and honor,” the report says. Some parents punished their children for accusing the “friendly” monsignor, the report says, though at one point the bishop at the time, James Hogan, was confronted by a group of “outraged parents” and promised action.

Hogan met with district attorney Gerald Long and assistant DA Patrick Kiniry, both now serving as judges in the area, the report says, though no charges were brought.

McCaa was removed from the diocese and replaced with a priest who is also named in the report as a pedophile.

McCaa retired in 1993 and died in 2007. Hogan died in 2005.

Gergely was at the courthouse in Ebensburg on Friday to witness three state lawmakers holding a small public event in the marbled vestibule to announce a call for more action.

The three pledged to fight for legislation – which has been stuck for many years in committee in the state capital of Harrisburg– on whether to abolish the statute of limitations in civil cases involving child abuse. They also plan to introduce a bill to create a special, two-year window allowing past victims to sue the church.

“Just in this borough, it’s like a cancer,” said the state senator David Burns. “Everyone here knows a victim, even though they may not know they know it. The attorney general did not say the investigation is closed and there may be more to come. They estimate that in a single little town like this, McCaa affected a generation of kids.”

And people may not have realized the extent to which tears in the fabric of the community were ripped by McCaa and his ilk, Burns said.

Father Francis B McCaa head stone

Father Francis B McCaa head stone

“We have a large drug problem in our area, we deal with high driving-under-the-influence (DUI) arrests, and we just think that’s because the community is poor and unemployed, but it could be that a lot of these kids have had a hard time integrating into society because of the impact of this abuse. It strains family and sexual relationships, and it often takes years, especially for a man, to report something,” said Burns.

He said he had no reason to believe that abuse was not continuing after the period covered in the report and he hoped there would be further action.

Nationally, John Salveson, founder of the campaign group the Foundation to Abolish Child Abuse, and other activist groups, such as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), are calling on Barack Obama to launch a federal investigation.

State assemblyman Mark Rozzi’s district is outside the Altoona-Johnstown diocese. But he is calling for a grand jury investigations in every diocese in Pennsylvania.

Rozzi said that legislators at the state assembly in Harrisburg were “running away and hiding in their offices, refusing to speak to me” when he tried to talk about taking government action against the abuse.

Rozzi, now 44, said when he was 13, he fell prey to his priest, Edward Graff.

When Graff invited a school friend of Rozzi’s to the rectory, too, the boy realized he was not the only one. Rozzi recalls Graff telling the friend to wait, while he took Rizzo into the shower and raped him.

“I remember staring at this bit of the shower wall and thinking: ‘I can stand here and take this or I can run,’” he said.

Rozzi shoved the man off him and raced out of the shower, grabbing some clothes and yelling to his friend to flee.

“I was running down the hall of the rectory, basically naked. Father was screaming at us. I said to my friend: ‘No one can know about this,’” he said. They ran away, terrified.

Rozzi became a star athlete at college, but suffered psychologically. He had appalling nightmares about being chased and raped by the priest, dreams which he tried to quell with marijuana. He credits his wife, whom he met at college, for helping to save his sanity.

After unsuccessfully lobbying the state assembly, while in his thirties, to take action on child abuse, Rozzi ran for office himself. Three of his childhood friends who also suffered sexual abuse by priests have killed themselves, the most recent on Good Friday last year.

Brian Gergely started drinking at 10 after he says he was groped by McCaa. Disappointing grades at school and two DUI convictions thwarted his ambition to become a lawyer. He is now a behavioral therapist for kids with special needs, has trouble keeping a girlfriend and is single, he said. In 2006, he tried to hang himself.

The bishop who succeeded James Hogan, Joseph Adamec, who has since retired, testified to the grand jury. He is excoriated in the report for failing to take action against numerous abusive priests, while ignoring victims. The report says church leaders sought to discredit victims and their families.

Adamec was not at home on Friday evening at the address publicly listed for him in Hollidaysburg, near Altoona, and could not be reached for comment.

But at his house next to the church where he is pastor in Altoona, Monsignor Michael Servinsky, 69, answered the door and spoke while standing in his hallway beneath portraits of the pope and the current bishop of the diocese.

Servinsky was cited in the grand jury report as having failed to notify law enforcement in 2001 and 2002 about two priests who admitted past abuse to him, one of boys the other of girls.

Servinsky denied to the Guardian that he had done anything wrong.

“I think the grand jury did quite a hatchet job on Bishop Joseph – they did him in. He was very concerned about making sure the victims got covered [financially]. And they talk about Bishop Hogan manipulating the legal system. No. I know situations where police and judges would collar him and say: ‘Get that guy out of here and we will not prosecute.’ We are talking about a different age, going back 40 or 50 years,” he said.

Servinsky added, however, that there was “no excuse” for child abuse.

He said some priests were dismissed and others were allowed to retire “because if we dismissed them, they would not have any income, and that would not be just”.

Asked whether the priests should be in prison, Servinsky argued that pedophilia has always been a problem going back millennia and in 2016 “we are still dealing with the same problem”, so what good would prison do?

“We have capital punishment and there are still murders,” he said, adding: “Most of the victims who came to us were not interested in taking it to law enforcement. They didn’t want to testify.”

Two miles up the street, the basilica-style Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament overlooks downtown Altoona.

Around 100 parishioners attended a Lent service there on Friday evening. Numerous priests named in the grand jury’s report served at the cathedral during their careers, and the report found that children were raped on the premises.

Emerging with her adolescent son, Tina, a physical education assistant born and raised in Altoona, who preferred not to give her last name, said she thought the turnout at the service had been “three times as high as normal” as people showed their support for the embattled diocese.

Inside, Father Dennis Kurdziel had just finished presiding.

He said he was “stunned and sickened” by the revelations in the grand jury report and regretted that it forced all those “wearing the collar” to feel the eye of suspicion, whether accurate or not.

“It takes your breath away. I felt this week like I was hit in the face with a two-by-four,” he said.

Current Altoona-Johnstown bishop Mark Bartchak apologized on Thursday. But state lawmakers Burns, Rozzi and John Wozniak said the test of his sincerity would be what he and other leaders do now.

Kurdziel said: “We should not hide behind the statute of limitations. If it could somehow help and protect people, then we should do it. I have a responsibility as a priest. I don’t like to think of it as power.”

Asked what a young parishioner should do if a man of the church attempts to touch them inappropriately, he said: “Smack them in the face as hard as you can and run to a cop.”

 

The Nightmares and Substance Abuse


One of our problems being victims of priest sexual abuse is most of us resort to substance abuse to deal with the pain and horror we have to hide.

To understand our pain, you would have to understand the betrayal that was perpetrated upon us.

I was born and raised in the Roman Catholic Church, attending St Charles Catholic Church in Dover NH. I received my First Communion and Confession there. I also went to a catholic school until we had to start going to Horne Street because the school burned down. It is drilled into your head from the very beginning that the priest, nuns and all the officials of the Roman Catholic Church are like speaking directly to God himself. Those punishments of the penguins you hear about, the rapping of the knuckles with the rulers, or sitting in the corner with a dunce cap on are all true.  They controlled your life, you believed EVERYTHING they said to you and if you questioned them……well you just did not question them.

I will not get into it but I left home at the age of 13. I went from one group home to a couple of foster homes. The last foster home I was in was an incredibly abusive uptight, right wing southern baptist bible thumpers. I only stayed a week or so and ran away. I spent the night with two girls I grew up with and the next day the police department bought me to St Thomas Moore’s church in Durham until the social worker they had assigned me to got me into Teen Haven group home in Rochester NH the next day.

That night changed my life forever. I will not get into the particulars of the rape, except to say he made me perform oral and receive anal and oral from him. What I will talk about is the psychology of the rape. All the while he was assaulting me, he kept telling me to say the Our Father and the Hail Mary. He also told me over and over again that no one would believe me over his word as a priest. Then he told me if I ever did tell anyone I would die and go to hell. He gave me the reason for doing this to me was to cleanse me of breaking the commandment of honoring my mother and my father. I remember the whole time he was raping me I was screaming inside for God and Jesus Christ to stop him, I begged them to make him stop, but they did not hear my cries of pain and shame.  Now can you imagine this being done to you?

Here you are, confused, scared because even before I got to the church I was scared outta my wits because I did not know if they were going to send me to juvie in Manchester. Also I knew very well what he was saying was true. No one would ever believe me what he was doing to me. As for my going to hell, well, again, hell was VERY REAL to me even at that age. I grew up in the 60’s, imagine the reality of hell to a young roman catholic boy. Dante’s Inferno was real to me. Now I was being raped by a priest who was supposed to protect me for one single night, but he allowed his perversions and sexual needs to overcome his common sense.

This priest took total control of my heart, my soul, my body and my mind.

I want to share with you one of the nightmares I started suffering right after I did tell a friend at the boarding school I eventually ended up at.

I am walking through the mist and woods and find myself coming to a cemetery. I hear moaning but I think it is more the wind I hear going through the trees around me. I see a shadow, then another one, glimpses of ragged shapes in the fog and mist around me. All of a sudden I feel something brush against my right calf. Then something grabs both of my feet and pull them out from under me. I land in some type of stinky goop, not really mud, almost smelling like an well used outhouse. As I struggle to get out of it, I only sink more into it, it is almost like quick sand but the harder I try to fight it, the more I sink into the stink. As I do these dead, decayed arms reach out of it and grab around me. My legs, my waist, my arms and shoulders and head are pinned and slowly they start to pull me deeper into the goop.I remember looking up trying to take a deep breath for my lungs and as I do a few half rotten skulls come out of the goop and start to laugh this hysterical laugh. All I hear over their laughing is you are going to hell in the air around me.

I am dragged deeper and deeper into the goop. My nostrils, mouth and throat starts to fill with it. I am gagging and trying to breath but I can’t. I am not dying though, I know this, but I cannot breath and I only wish to die. It goes on for what seems like minutes. Eventually I come out of the bottom of the goop, straight into the very pits of hell itself. I am gasping for breath but all I get is heated air from the pit. There is fire and screaming and moaning and pain. I can feel it in every part of my being. My heart goes out to the pain and suffering I hear. My soul weeps for it all. I hear all kinds of sounds that scare the living daylights out of me. Sounds of torture and screams and cries of why, why?

I am seeing even children being tortured, all of them screaming and crying out for God and Jesus Christ to save them, just like I had done while the priest was raping me, yet even here too, these beings we all believed in and prayed to did not hear these young innocent cries of the children. I wept for them like I had never wept for anyone before. My tears are all hot from the fires and pain and horrors I am witnessing.

The heat of the fires are scorching me but not burning me. In a way the goop that is all over me protects me from the full heat of the blaze. All of a sudden three demons dressed as priests grab me and drag me to a room. There is an assembly of men, all of them from the rulers of the roman catholic church.

I cannot repeat the things they say to me or the things they did to me in that room. Suffice it to say that it is ten thousand times worse than what the priest did to me. I can only say think of the tortures and sadism of the Inquisitions That is just a small idea of what these perverts of religion did to me for speaking out against the evil they do. I still cannot deal with some of these nightmares. I think though you can use your own imagination with what I have already told you to understand why I cannot tell this part of the nightmare. It is still too painful, even after 34 years, they are still too painful to deal with yet.

When I wake up from one of these nightmares, I am covered in sweat and just twisted. The nightmares are very real to me. It is no wonder that I turned to drugs and alcohol to block these nightmares because it seemed these were the only substances that I could use to block them? Most of us victims of these priests do. It takes a lot of therapy to learn how to deal with nightmares like I have….and I know many other victims have of these perverted priests.

For decades I took any and all drugs and drank anything I could. My poisons were mostly weed, crown royal and molson ale. I remember some friend and I counted all the blue bags I had saved from the crown royal I drank in one year. It was over 200 bags. That is a lot of alcohol if you ask me considering I normally drank about a six pack or a 12 pack of molson with it. Plus all the weed I used to smoke. I prided myself on being able to out smoke and put anyone under the table. I remember smoking through a quarter pound of really boss herb in ten days and buying two more ounces and smoking that within another week.

I am now pretty much clean and sober. I really no longer drink. Maybe a six pack if I am lucky every four or so months. Heck I bought a bottle of smirnoff and peach snapps two new years ago and they still sit half drank in my fridge. I learned through my nature and wildlife photography, my love of nature and backpacking, that I can find other ways of “escaping” the pains of the past and looking at beauty again.

I lived in ugliness for many many decades. Through my nature and wildlife photography I have started finding the real beauty of the world around me again.

I also would love to ask his High Unholiness Papal Bullshitter Pope Benedict, or many of the bishops and arch bishops and priests who did this to us children and teens, how they would feel to have even ONE of my nightmares, let alone where you have these kinds of nightmares over and over again for weeks at a time. Is it no wonder I became an insomniac? Is it no wonder why I turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with all of this?

Right after this priest raped me I became a pyromaniac. I burned a lot of things. I even got arrested at 14, about two or three weeks later for burning a box truck at the railroad tracks right down from the Teen Haven group home which got me sent to Austin Cate Academy in Center Strafford New Hampshire.

I would also love to hear how sorry the Papal Bullshitter is right to my face. Yet he is too punk and believes that child pornography and sex between an adult and child is considered normal, his very own words he gave in his christmas address. If you do not believe this, just google it and you will see I am right.

So Papal Bullshitter, Pope Benedict, what do you say? Care to have a couple of my nightmares? Oh no I already know what your doom is. Seeing you protected those who harmed innocent children. Seeing you allowed these perversions to happen and covered it up. Seeing you do not care about the suffering of us children. Well you are going to be spending a long eternity in the very hell of the nightmares I have had to endure in my life. I see you in the goop Unhonorable Papal Bullshitter, with your bishops and priests all around you, getting more than pitchforks shoved up your anal cavities.