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PENNSYLVANIA Bishop defends action in past cases of alleged sex abuse



Published: Fri, March 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



No new allegations have come up since 1987, the bishop said.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The bishop of a western Pennsylvania diocese responded to a series of sexual-abuse allegations and lawsuits involving priests -- all of which date back decades -- by explaining how the diocese handled those cases and others over the past 15 years.

The statement released last week by Bishop Joseph Adamec, who has led the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese since 1987, was intended to show that he responded to allegations when they came to his attention in a manner considered appropriate by church officials at the time.

Last year, after well-publicized accusations brought against priests across the nation, U.S. bishops developed a stricter standard, approved by the Vatican, for dealing with allegations.

But that hasn't stopped some people in Bishop Adamec's diocese from raising older accusations the bishop thought had already been dealt with.

He has repeatedly stated that no new allegations of abuse have been raised since he took over the diocese, saying that the cases he has dealt with involved accusations predating his tenure as bishop.

"No matter what or how much I do, it is not going to be the right thing or enough in everyone's eyes," Bishop Adamec wrote in a statement released to the diocesan newspaper.

What he did

In his statement, Bishop Adamec explained how allegations against 13 priests named in recent lawsuits and news reports were handled. Of those 13, one -- the Rev. Francis Luddy, who was the subject of a 1987 lawsuit that ended with the plaintiffs' winning a $1.2 million award from the diocese -- was defrocked.

Bishop Adamec removed two priests who had been suspended by his predecessor, Bishop James Hogan. Four others were evaluated and found to be no threat to children, although one of them was reaccused again years later and went into treatment.

Three more had been or were sent for treatment; one returned as a chaplain at a hospital. Another priest who had been suspended was allowed to return to a duty outside a church, while another died during an investigation.

The last was placed on administrative leave last month pending an investigation.

The bishop said the diocese paid for therapy for at least four men who said they had been abused by priests. He named two of the men in the statement, a move decried by a lawyer representing seven men who recently sued the diocese over the old allegations.

"It's disappointing he would again victimize these individuals who have been abused by spelling out information which was confidential," said Atty. Richard Serbin. "He is trying to discourage other victims."

What lawsuits contend

The lawsuits allege both bishops knew about allegations against priests but did too little to prevent future abuse.

Although the lawsuits themselves directly involve allegations against four priests, they mention 11 other priests Serbin contends the church knew had been accused of sexual misconduct with children.

But Bishop Adamec, in his statement, defended his record, noting he removed two priests early in his tenure.

He reiterated that church officials handled allegations of sexual abuse within church guidelines and will follow a policy approved by the Vatican in December for handling future allegations.




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