Category Archives: Father Francis B. McCaa

Ebensburg man, child abuse victims advocate, takes own life


Ebensburg man, child abuse victims advocate, takes own life

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

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)

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.

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‘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.”

 

Grand jury: Hundreds of children sexually abused by priests in Altoona-Johnstown diocese


Grand jury: Hundreds of children sexually abused by priests in Altoona-Johnstown diocese

POSTED 10:45 AM, MARCH 1, 2016, BY , UPDATED AT 10:54AM, MARCH 1, 2016

ALTOONA, Pa.  — A statewide investigating grand jury has determined that hundreds of children were sexually abused over a period of at least 40 years by priests or religious leaders assigned to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane’s office announced today.

The widespread abuse involved at least 50 priests or religious leaders. Evidence and testimony reviewed by the grand jury also revealed a troubling history of superiors within the Diocese taking action to conceal the child abuse as part of an effort to protect the institution’s image. The grand jury, in a 147-page report made public today, stressed this conduct endangered thousands of children and allowed proven child predators to abuse additional victims.

“The heinous crimes these children endured are absolutely unconscionable,” said Kane, who addressed the media this morning at a news conference at the Blair County Convention Center. “These predators desecrated a sacred trust and preyed upon their victims in the very places where they should have felt most safe.

“Just as troubling is the cover-up perpetrated by clergy leaders that allowed this abuse to continue for decades,” Kane added. “They failed in our society’s most important task of protecting our children.”

The grand jury’s findings followed two years of exhaustive investigation by the Office of Attorney General, which brought this matter to the grand jury in April 2014. While Attorney General Kane stressed the investigation is ongoing, none of the criminal acts detailed in the grand jury report can be prosecuted. This is due to the deaths of alleged abusers, deeply traumatized victims being unable to testify in a court of law and the statute of limitations for the crimes being exhausted.

As a result, the grand jury in its report made a series of recommendations, such as abolishing the statute of limitations for sexual offenses against minors and urging the state General Assembly to suspend the civil statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims.

The grand jurors also urged victims of crimes, such as child abuse, to report criminal activity to law enforcement. Attorney General Kane also urged victims and others with information concerning the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown to contact the Office of Attorney General. Those with information may contact the office by dialing 888-538-8541, a toll-free, dedicated hotline established for this case.

“This is by no means the end of our investigation. We will continue to look at this matter and consider charges where appropriate, which is why it is so important for those with information to come forward,” Kane said. “At the very least we must continue to shine a light on this long period of abuse and despicable conduct.”

Execution of search warrant uncovers “secret archive”

The grand jury reviewed more than 200 exhibits and heard testimony from numerous witnesses, which created thousands of pages of transcribed testimony. A substantial amount of the physical evidence was uncovered when investigators with the Office of Attorney General executed a search warrant last August at a Diocese office and uncovered materials that included the Diocese’s “secret archive.”

The materials included numerous files for priests accused of sexual misconduct. As the grand jury noted in its report, boxes and filing cabinets were filled with documents detailing children being sexually violated by the Diocese’s own members. Also among the seized items detailing the abuse were: handwritten notes of Bishop James Hogan, letters and documents sent to Bishop Joseph Adamec, several sexual abuse victim statements, correspondence with offending priests and internal correspondence related to these matters. All told, approximately 115,042 documents were removed from the Diocese.

The evidence was instrumental in detailing the actions of Bishops Hogan and Adamec, the men who led the Diocese between the mid-1960s through 2011. The bishops allegedly were at the forefront of the cover-up the grand jury details in its report.

The evidence also shows several instances in which law enforcement officers and prosecutors failed to pursue allegations of child sexual abuse occurring within the Diocese.

Priest sent on sabbatical to avoid criminal investigation

The grand jury found the case of Joseph Gaborek, 70, to be “a particularly heinous example of the Diocese exercising authority and influence to cover up the sexual abuse of a child at the hands of a Diocesan priest.”

The grand jury reviewed evidence that Gaborek, who was assigned to St. Michael’s Church (West Salisbury) and St. Mary’s Church (Pocahontas) in the early 1980s, sexually violated a boy after recruiting him to work at the parishes. The abuse was later reported to the Pennsylvania State Police, the grand jury stated.

The grand jury determined that Bishop Hogan spoke to police investigating the case and assured a police investigator he would send Gaborek to an institution. Further review of the evidence showed Gaborek was sent on sabbatical to a school for boys where there was no psychological or psychiatric treatment available, the grand jury determined. He was later reassigned to another parish.

The Diocese’s own files detailed Hogan’s intervention in the police investigation. A portion of one such file noted Gaborek “would have been prosecuted and convicted of [sexual contact with a 16 year old boy] except that the bishop intervened and he was sent to Michigan for treatment and then placed in another parish upon his return.”

Bishop acted to avoid scandal rather than protect children, grand jury finds

The grand jury report details another troubling example of abuse allegedly perpetrated by Martin Cingle, 69, a priest who was ordained in 1973 and later was assigned to various parishes within the Diocese. Evidence uncovered during the investigation showed Cingle in 1979 groped the genitals of a child while sleeping next to the boy on a cot in his underwear, the grand jury report states.

The victim met in 2002 with Bishop Adamec. Records recovered from the Diocese show that Adamec sent Cingle for “treatment” after the victim came to him. The so-called treatment concluded after roughly one month. Among its findings, records show, was the determination that there was no evidence of “psychopathology in the psychological data,” and that nothing in Cingle’s history was consistent with an attempt to initiate sexual relations with a man. Cingle was returned to full-time ministry.

During his testimony before the grand jury, Cingle acknowledged he could have accidentally fondled the boy’s genitals. The grand jury learned Cingle had told Adamec the same version of events, but the account does not appear in diocesan records. Cingle was left in the ministry until last year, when the Office of Attorney General demanded Cingle be removed from ministry immediately.

The grand jury determined the allegation made against Cingle warranted his removal, and that Bishop Adamec’s reliance on so-called “treatment” was part of a desire to avoid scandal. The matter was never reported to law enforcement.

At least 15 boys abused by monsignor

The grand jury deemed Francis B. McCaa, now deceased, to be “a monster.” McCaa, a monsignor, was assigned for more than 20 years to the Holy Name Church in Ebensburg, where he groped and fondled the genitals of at least 15 boys, many of whom were altar boys, the grand jury found. The victims were reported to be between 8 and 15 years old.

One McCaa victim said the abuse occurred during confession. In other instances, the victims stood together while being abused, the grand jury found. At least one victim committed suicide.

Bishop Hogan in this case also kept detailed notes of his meeting with two prosecutors who worked for the Cambria County district attorney’s office. The notes show another case in which Hogan intervened in a child abuse investigation involving a member of the Diocese, and had McCaa transferred to work as a chaplain at a West Virginia hospital.

Investigators conducted interviews with the prosecutors involved in the McCaa case, which also confirmed their inaction and the decision to move McCaa to another location in lieu of pursuing criminal charges, the grand jury alleges.

OAG credits FBI for assistance with investigation

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown’s parishes are located within eight counties — Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clinton, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset. There are more than 90,000 Catholics in the area the Diocese covers, according to the grand jury.

This Office of Attorney General assumed jurisdiction of this matter upon a formal conflict referral by Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan. The matter was presented to the grand jury by Deputy Attorney General Daniel J. Dye of the Office of Attorney General’s Criminal Prosecutions Section. The office’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations also spent a significant amount of time gathering the evidence that was presented to the grand jury.

The Attorney General’s investigators also were aided greatly by behavioral experts with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Critical Incident Response Group, Behavioral Analysis Unit.

Attorney General Kane thanked all who took part in the investigation for their commitment and hard work.