ALTOONA, Pa. — Two Catholic bishops who led a small Pennsylvania diocese helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by more than 50 priests and other religious leaders over a 40-year period, according to a grand jury report that portrays the church as holding such sway over law enforcement that it helped select a police chief.
The 147-page report issued Tuesday on sexual abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, home to nearly 100,000 Roman Catholics, was based partly on evidence from a secret diocesan archive opened through a search warrant over the summer.
In announcing the findings, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said the diocese's two previous bishops "placed their desire to avoid public scandal over the well-being of children."
No criminal charges are being filed in the case because some abusers have died, the statute of limitations has expired, or victims are too traumatized to testify, she said.
The report was especially critical of Bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec. Hogan, who headed the diocese from 1966 to 1986, died in 2005. Adamec, who succeeded him, retired in 2011.
Adamec cited possible self-incrimination in refusing to testify before the grand jury. But in a court filing, his attorney said the accusations against the 80-year-old Adamec are unfounded. He required 14 priests accused under his watch to undergo psychiatric evaluation, the filing said. Nine of them were suspended or removed from ministry, and the five who were reinstated never re-offended, his attorney wrote.
"Bishop Adamec's handling of abuse allegations has no similarity to other clergy abuse scandals," his attorney wrote.
The current bishop, Mark Bartchak, is not accused of any wrongdoing.