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ALTOONA, Pa. (ChurchMilitant.com) - In anticipation of large payouts resulting from sex abuse settlements, the scandal-stricken diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in Pennsylvania is beginning to sell property.
In a statement released Friday, diocesan officials asserted the measures are "appropriate given the current financial circumstances of the Diocese as it responds to past cases of sexual abuse of minors."
Hierarchy stated their proposal includes relocating its headquarters, currently located in Hollidaysburg in central Pennsylvania, to the school building of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Altoona in October. The current headquarter property is scheduled to be sold to a nursing home.
The facility, a complex of four buildings, currently house the office of Bp. Mark Bartchak, in addition to the diocesan newspaper and educational and liturgical offices.
The pending sale comes two years after the diocese sold the residence of Bp. Mark Bartchak for $1 million to assist in paying settlement costs for previous sex abuse cases.
"In addition to being good stewards of available resources," the statement continues, "the proposed sale will also help the diocese to refocus its mission to parishes and parishioners. The diocese is also continuing to strengthen its programs to protect children and youth."
The decisions come on the heels of a state grand jury report released in March implicating the diocese's two previous bishops in a four-decade cover-up of over 50 homosexual priests. The prelates in question, Bps. James Hogan and Joseph Adamec, led the Altoona-Johnstown diocese in southern Pennsylvania from 1966 to 2011, a period in which, according to the report compiled by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, the two sheltered homosexual priests responsible for molesting hundreds of children, the vast majority being post-pubescent boys.
In addition to a code of silence within the chancery, local law enforcement, including police chiefs, officers and judges, also collaborated in the cover-up, often alerting the diocese of impending police surveillance and meeting with diocesan hierarchy — as opposed to the prosecution — to discuss the transfer of offending clergy.
In addition to the bishops, three Franciscan friars are being ordered to stand trial on allegations they worked to protect a homosexual abusive brother. Prosecutors allege that over two decades the three Franciscans, who successively acted as provincial ministers for the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regulars of the Immaculate Conception Province in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania from 1986 to 2010, repeatedly allowed Br. Stephen Baker to work with children despite his known history of abusing minors, resulting in the purported molestation of over 100 children, the vast majority post-pubescent males.