The attorney general’s investigation into Catholic priest abuse in the Pennsylvania diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has sent shockwaves across this primarily rural Catholic area of Pennsylvania.
The shockwaves didn’t result in the revelation that numerous priests from Altoona-Johnstown sexually abused children. Unfortunately, we’ve heard that tragic story before from other dioceses across the country. What makes the Altoona-Johnstown situation different is that the attorney general’s report found that the priest molesters were able to continue to abuse more children because they had the assistance of law enforcement and the judicial system which didn’t prosecute the priests.
One of the cases involved Monsignor Francis McCaa, whom the attorney general report calls a “monster”. He allegedly sexually abused hundreds of children while serving as a priest at Holy Name Catholic Church in Cambria County. In spite of the hundreds of abuse allegations, McCaa was never faced a criminal trial for his behavior. According to a local newspaper investigation, McCaa escaped prosecution because the judge in the case, Judge Gerard Long, was a Catholic parishioner at McCaa’s parish.
Thirty years ago – on Dec. 11, 1986 – the McCaa abuse case was sealed in Cambria County court by now-retired Judge Gerard Long.
According to the Tribune-Democrat, “Long wrote in January 1989 that parties to the case – meaning Bishop James Hogan and McCaa himself – were ‘completely confident that the motions and related matters can be fairly and impartially decided, and they have not questioned this Judge’s integrity at any prior stage or proceeding.’ The attorney general’s report from March tracks meetings between Bishop Hogan and then-Cambria Assistant District Attorney Patrick Kiniry, now a county judge.”
Kiniry said he met with the diocese at the behest of then-DA Long, who told the AG’s investigators in 2015 he was unaware that Kiniry had met with church leaders.
The AG reported that Hogan reassigned McCaa to West Virginia with a “glowing” recommendation. First Long and then Kiniry have since ascended to the Cambria bench.
“Back then the Diocese moved the problem, that’s just how it was,” Kiniry said in the AG’s report.
When law enforcement and the judiciary collude with the Catholic Church to cover up criminal acts by Catholic priests, we have a whole new depth of corruption. This is just the tip of the iceberg in Altoona-Johnstown.