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ALTOONA, Pa. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A hotline for reporting clerical sex abuse in a Pennsylvania diocese is receiving hundreds of phone calls.
According to the state attorney general's office, the phone line, established amid a growing scandal involving the systematic protection of actively homosexual clerics, has taken more than 250 calls reporting past molestations by diocesan priests and others. The line was set up in early March following the release of a state grand jury report, sourcing secret diocesan records, incriminating two of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese's former bishops for sheltering dozens of homosexual priests and religious for nearly four decades as the predators sexually assaulted and raped hundreds of children.
The diocesan records are part of a series of classified chancery documents obtained by authorities through a search warrant in August revealing Bp. James Hogan, who led the Altoona-Johnstown diocese from 1966 to 1987, was aware of dozens of actively homosexual priests within his jurisdiction who had been molesting or were continuing to molest minors — the vast majority being post-pubescent males.
The investigation further implicates Hogan's successor Bp. Joseph Adamec, who retired in 2011, for continuing the work of his predecessor. According to the grand jury report, both men "took actions that further endangered children as they placed their desire to avoid public scandal over the well-being of innocent children" by returning priests to ministry "with full knowledge they were child predators."
Additionally, the cover-ups were "aided and abetted by police and judges, who wanted the diocese to handle its problems internally." In an interview with Pennsylvania deputy attorney general Daniel Dye, Msgr. Philip Saylor, who worked under Hogan, explained that judges, police chiefs and sheriffs would simply inform the chancery they need to get the abuses "under control."
He also divulged that the diocese held sway over appointments to key government positions. "I appointed the Chief of Police. I appointed the Fire Chief. ... The mayor would have them come to me and I would interview them and I would tell him which one I would pick ... [and] he would pick that person."
Saylor's admission is corroborated by former Altoona police chief Peter Starr, who told the grand jury the monsignor "persuaded the mayor to appoint me as the Chief of Police," additionally divulging that "the politicians of Blair County were afraid of Monsignor Saylor."
In light of the evidence presented by the 147-page grand jury report, Dye admits it would not be "excessive or hyperbole" to say they believe there to be at least 300 reported victims, as the calls to the hotline continue to pour in, including one from an 85-year-old individual — which could trace the abuses back as far as the Great Depression. But the deputy attorney general believes the claims received in just the month of March are only the beginning.
"I am absolutely certain the calls we are getting are just a mere fraction of the total," Dye claims. "It is absolutely what we expected having read the diocese's records."
While the information received will be investigated, the current statute of limitations forbids charges from being filed against any of the individuals mentioned in the grand jury report. "It sort of leads directly into the aspect of getting rid of the statute of limitations," Dye explains.
Any potential victims of sex abuse by Altoona-Johnstown diocesan clergy are encouraged to call the official tip line: (888) 538–8541.