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What's New in the Household of God  

Bishop Joseph asks us to be as generous as possible to help the victims of the earthquakes and resulting tsunamis. Donations will be taken up at every Catholic parish within the next several weeks. All the monies will be given to help the efforts of Catholic Relief Services. See Story Below!

CRS COMMITS $25 MILLION FOR TSUNAMI RELIEF;
ONE OF LARGEST CONTRIBUTIONS TO DATE FOR THE EMERGENCY

December 30, 2004, Baltimore, MD—Catholic Relief Services (CRS) announced a commitment of $25 million for emergency relief and long-term rehabilitation programs to assist people across the south and southeast Asia region devastated by the Dec. 26 tsunami. The amount represents one of the earliest and largest such commitments to date for the tsunami relief efforts.
“We must brace for the commitment this emergency asks of us and be as generous as we can,” said Ken Hackett, CRS president and CEO. “Right now the immediate needs for clean water, medical care, shelter and food are critical; we can only expect that the aftermath and recovery will take place over a long period of time. It’s especially important that we don’t overlook the impact of trauma among the survivors, who are grieving under life-threatening circumstances.”
With the estimated death toll nearly doubling each day as relief workers gain greater access to affected areas, the picture of devastation is staggering. CRS staff throughout the region are working around the clock conducting assessments and collaborating with local partners in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia to establish the most effective and appropriate measures of response. Lack of fuel in certain areas, due to the destruction of gas stations by the tsunami, has made access and transportation especially arduous.
Initial use of funding will facilitate the following CRS relief efforts, which will evolve as necessary:
In India : Working with Caritas to provide life-saving food, medicine and shelter in the worst affected districts of Tamil Nadu/Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and the Andaman and Nicobar islands; supporting ten diocesan partners to organize and manage 93 relief camps sheltering over 125,000 people along the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh coastlines; providing displaced persons with cooked food three times a day, and with clothing, clean water and medical assistance, as required; providing resources to partners for distributing dry food rations, medicine, oral rehydration solutions and water purification tablets in remote areas.
In Sri Lanka : Providing cooked food and dry rations, non-food items, and mobile medical assistance; purchasing and distributing soap, water cans, kitchen sets, and bed sheets/sarongs for displaced persons; and providing technical support for local partners.
In Indonesia : Collaborating with other agencies for the delivery of “survival kits,” including kitchen utensils, hygiene items, blankets, sleeping mats, water storage cans and plastic sheeting to 755 families in Aceh.
In Thailand : Assisting the needs of poor fishing communities effected by the tidal waves in six southern provinces.

CRS’ $25 million funding for relief and rehabilitation will focus primarily on India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, but is likely to address the effects in Burma, Somalia and Madagascar. The agency’s financial commitment may increase as further assessments shed light on the gravity of the situation and time for recovery.
CONTACTS:
For more information, pictures or interviews with field and headquarters staff, contact:
INDIA: Marc D'Silva, country representative, 91-98-1011-3273 or 91-11-2648-7256.
SRI LANKA: Kevin Hartigan, South Asia regional director, 94-77-61-35-786.
INDIA AND SRI LANKA: David Snyder, communications, 011-91-98-94-275-283.
INDONESIA AND THAILAND: Mark Pierce, Southeast Asia regional director, 66-265-1332.
US/HQ: Caroline Brennan, communications, 410-951-7408/(cell) 202-494-1737/cbrennan@catholicrelief.org.
To contribute to CRS tsunami relief efforts, send donations to:
Catholic Relief Services
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090
Memo line: Tsunami Emergency
Or call, 1-877-HELP-CRS (435-7277)
Or visit www.catholicrelief.org .
BACKGROUND
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian organization of the U.S. Catholic community. The agency has had a significant presence in south and southeast Asia for more than 60 years, providing both emergency and long-term development assistance. CRS provides assistance to people in 99 countries and territories based on need, not race, creed or nationality.

2004 CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
Most Reverend Joseph V. Adamec
Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown

    “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us” (Mt 1:23).

    The Evangelist and Apostle John has put it in these words: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…”
(Jn 1:14).

    In any case, the wonderful mystery that we Christians celebrate during the Christmas Season is this: - God himself became a human being in order to live with and within his people. He submitted himself to this out of an infinite love for each one of us.

    He continues to be present among us. That continuing presence is a reflection of his divine providence to nurture, reconcile, and unite the human race that He created, came to redeem, and remained to sanctify. Thus, He came to be of service to his servants.

    Even though they do not celebrate Christmas, I want to extend to our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters the peace of the one God that we all worship. And, to the Faithful of this Diocesan Church and all Christians, I express the hope that we might accept more fully Christ’s gift of his presence among us and thus experience the peace and joy of the Christmas Season throughout the New Year of 2005.   

                                + Joseph

Fall 2004 Meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Documents available here)

Bishop Joseph met the news media Friday, November 19, 2004 at 10:00 AM . He spoke about his experience at the weeklong meetings in Washington, DC. Click here for more specifics about the Fall Meeting!


 The link below is for PDF file. Please use your browser's Back Button to return to this page.

2004 Planning Document 

After reading the document, please email your comments and suggestions to dajreply@dioceseaj.org



  BISHOP'S STATEMENT
  September 22, 2004

We regret that Attorney Serbin has taken legal action against us, in spite of our ongoing offers to help his clients.  

Since April of 2002, Bishop Joseph has asked our Allegation Review Board to examine  claims involving sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy. So far, all of these allegations have related to incidences that occurred in the past.

We recognize that some individuals, who were victimized as minors, may not have come forward at that time. The Diocese has tried to create a process that would make it easier for them to seek the help they need, and we as Church should give. The process begins with our Victim Advocate, Sr. Marilyn Welch, CCW, who assists in presenting the allegation to the Review Board. Our policy requires that these adults describe their experience to Bishop Joseph and the Board.

The process appears to be working in a number of cases. Each one that could be reasonably substantiated has received a settlement from the Diocese, including payments for counseling.  During the past several months, five persons have been heard through our Diocesan process. We anticipate helping others in the very near future.  Although the injury and pain of the victims cannot be erased so easily, we believe that in these cases another step toward healing has been accomplished for them and for the Church.

We regret that the attorney, and therefore the people he represents, has thus far not agreed to participate in our process.  Since we have been unable to learn any specifics about the allegations, we have no way of determining if they could be true. We are unwilling to settle any litigated cases without the use of the Allegation Review Board.

It is our view that litigation is not necessary.  We need dialogue to resolve the issue. The attorney was informed of that, but he has chosen to sue us in court. We continue to offer our current process. However, we do not intend to make settlements simply to avoid litigation.

BISHOP'S STATEMENT:  New Process to Assist Victims
June 24, 2004

The settlement reached with 21 persons last month was the right action for us to take as Church. It allowed us to avoid re-victimization and lengthy, expensive litigation. The money we paid went to victims and their lawyer.

But, we are well aware that more than just these 21 persons in our Church have been hurt. Some of them came to us in the past and received assistance and support at that time. There are those victims who have coped well with their situation and desire nothing more than to be assured that the accused priest is not in a position to hurt again. Others do not wish to come forward at all. However, we are concerned that victims completely unknown to us still need our understanding and assistance. I encourage them to use our diocesan process for that purpose.

Of course, anyone having evidence that a child is currently in danger should immediately contact the proper authorities. The child abuse hotline is 800- 932-0313. The Diocese is committed to full cooperation with the District Attorneys who serve our eight county area, and the reporting of all incidents for criminal prosecution, as required by law.

While old cases normally are not handled by the justice system, many of the victims are still dealing with painful, unresolved issues. For their good and for the health and holiness of the Church, their claims need to be investigated in order to insure that unsafe persons are not still in ministry and posing a risk to our children.

The process that has been developed in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown invites victims to seek the help of Sr. Marilyn Welch, who is our Victims Advocate (814-886-8250 or victimadvocate@dioceseaj.org). Her office has a number of trained advocates who can be of support throughout the process of healing. Sister Marilyn will present the matter to the Diocesan Allegation Review Board, which determines whether or not an investigation of the accusation needs to proceed. That Board is comprised of qualified lay women and men, who listen and advise the Bishop as to the proper course of action in response to each situation.

Should such an investigation show sufficient evidence that abuse has occurred, the Diocese is willing to assist with the cost of counseling and, in some cases, will offer financial compensation. The amount of such compensation will depend on the circumstances and severity of the abuse. Unfortunately, our financial resources are limited and an investigation of alleged incidences from the distant past is often quite difficult. Nevertheless, we are committed to respond appropriately to the degree that we are able.

It should be noted that this offer applies only to individuals who enter into our diocesan process, which is specifically designed to avoid the need for litigation. We do not intend to resolve a claim simply to avoid litigation.

We trust that this diocesan process will allow individuals to reach a resolution with the Church in a non-adversarial atmosphere. It is my wish and our responsibility to allow this difficult experience to make of us a more authentic Church. We now need to be about that task. Assisting those whom we may have yet neglected is a part of that task.




BISHOP'S STATEMENT: Resolution of Lawsuits

BISHOP'S STATEMENT: On John Jay Study Release
Bishop Joseph's Lenten Pastoral Letter
Bishop Joseph's Advent Pastoral Letter
BISHOP'S STATEMENT
: On USCCB Meeting - Friday, November 14, 2003

BISHOP'S STATEMENT: More Civil Litigation VS the Diocese

BISHOP’S NEWS MEDIA CONFERENCE-June 23, 2003
 
BISHOP'S STATEMENT: Response to Cover-Up Claim
NEWS RELEASE: Protecting God's Children
BISHOP'S STATEMENT: Civil Litigation VS the Diocese

 

 Please click here to find the intercessory prayer hundreds of people have been praying since Bishop Joseph promulgated it in March, 2001!

 
 
Upcoming Events  Diocesan Calendar

     
    Every Sunday at 10:30 AM - Tune in to Proclaim! and at 11:00 AM - the Catholic Mass "Live" co-produced by St. John Gualbert Cathedral and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, broadcast on WWCP-TV, Fox Channel 8 !

    Proclaim! features interview segments with Bishop Joseph, Catholic Teens, and their guests. Father Chuck Bridges will also provide the latest news involving issues facing the Catholic Church from our Diocese to the Vatican. We hope you will join us every Sunday for our television ministry!


    You can also tune into WFBG Radio every Sunday morning at 10:00 for the Mass "Live" from the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona!



Words from the Members of the Household

     This is an opportunity to ask questions, express gratitude, share stories, make God's presence known to others. Just email your comments, stories or questions to Sr. Mary  Parks, CSJ. Some or all of your responses may be posted here.

     If you do not want your questions or comments posted here, make that known in your message.

     May your day be blessed with great peace and joy!

Bishop Joseph's Statement on the Resolution of the Litigation Pending Before the Court of Common Pleas in Blair County
  
M
EDIA RELEASE May 27, 2004

We are pleased to announce that the talks the Diocese requested last Fall (and began in December 2003) have resulted in a resolution of the litigation pending before the Court of Common Pleas in Blair County.  In addition to the sixteen persons named in the lawsuits, five other individuals will be included in the settlement.  These cases date back to 1950.

The Diocese acknowledges that there are minors who have been harmed and are entitled to be compensated. The settlement reflects our deep desire both to aid the healing of victims of clergy abuse and to not incur the inordinate financial burden of lengthy litigation.

The agreement will result in the payment of sums totaling $3,500,000. In addition, $210,000 will be placed in escrow for those individuals, who desire counseling and therapy.  Individual claimants will be paid varying amounts depending on the facts of their cases as determined by an independent arbitrator. Those payments will range from a possibility of $50,000 up to a high payment of $400,000 per individual.

Prior to the arbitration hearings, there were two accusations that the Diocese could not determine to be abuse.  Consequently, those two priests have remained in ministry.  If new information was revealed during testimony this week in the arbitration hearings, we will re-review those two cases.

The Diocese will continue discussions with various insurance companies to recover the cost of the settlement. However, to provide immediate payment, the Diocese will use the surplus from the Mutual Aid Plan, which is the deposit and loan fund for parish savings accounts. It is important to note that none of the parish deposits or interest will be touched. Only these investment profits, which are owned by the Diocese, will be used for the settlement.

The Diocese will not use donations to the Annual Catholic Appeal for these settlements. Those donations will be used, as always, for the charitable works and ministries of the Diocese.
Bishop Joseph's Statement on the Release of the John Jay Study and  the National Review Board Report
  
February 27, 2004

First of all, let me echo Bishop Wilton Gregory, the President of our Conference … in thanking the men and women on the National Review Board for their hard work and dedication.

With the release of the John Jay Study and the Report by the Board today, some questions now have better answers. Much of the information has confirmed our fears.

Let me once more say how deeply sorry I am as priest and bishop that so many young people and children have been harmed and that so many of us in leadership have failed to protect them as we should have.  I trust that the sad facts revealed in these reports are about our Church’s history, not about our present condition.

As the board points out, our best course in responding to the problem is to continue compliance with The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. I have pledged myself to that end.

In an effort to be as “transparent” as the Charter recommends, I have already released the data regarding our own Diocesan Church. I did this even though the local statistics were not going to be released to the public in the John Jay College Report.  It seemed appropriate for our Catholic faithful to learn about our situation directly from me.

While we have made enormous progress in the last two years, for the victims of abuse, it has been too little and too late. In addition to my great regret for the pain victims of abuse have suffered … I extend to them an offer of our help, our support, and our prayers. I encourage them to come forward, if they have not already done so. We have established a way to support them through the Victims’ Advocate Sister Marilyn Welch (814-886-8250).

If you are interested in our local figures and have not seen them, they can be found on our web site (www.diocesealtjtn.org/news) in my Lenten and Advent Letters.


To see the entire John Jay Study and National Review Board Report go to usccb.org.

Lenten Pastoral Letter
    Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
    February 22, 2004

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Household of God,

   Just as I felt a need to write to you during the Advent Season, I now do so again at the beginning of our Lenten observance. It appears that the Lord has chosen to make the holy seasons quite real and appropriately significant for us.

   On February 27, an important report will be made public. This comes as a result of the Charter for the Protection of the Children and Young People. Through the Charter, a review board (now called the National Review Board and made up entirely of lay people) was established. We Bishops asked the Board to commission a study on the nature and scope of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clergy within the Catholic Church in the United States from 1950 through 2002. That report will contain information about how many clergy are alleged to have perpetrated sexual abuse of minors, how many victims there have been, and the financial costs involved nationwide. A separate report will attempt to make an initial assessment of causes.

   The report of February 27 will not reference any local statistics. But, as you know, I have already informed you of our diocesan numbers in my Advent Pastoral letter. At that time, I promised information relative to our financial costs in those cases.

   As I informed you in December, we have been able to determine that we have received and followed through on accusations affecting 16 priests, ministering within the Diocese during the time of the study. Of these, three are deceased. Eight are suspended from public priestly ministry. Four cases are currently being reviewed by the Holy See. One priest was dismissed from the clerical state. This represents 2.5% of the priests calculated to have served the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown during the fifty years covered by the national survey. These cases involve approximately 37 victims. In addition, allegations against eleven other priests were received but not able to be substantiated. Even in a number of those cases, we have made counseling and other services available to those bringing forth the charges.

   We have found our records to show that the above cases required an expenditure of around $3,265,000. In order to interpret that figure more accurately, it helps to set the Luddy court case apart. The court judgment paid to Michael Hutchison in the Luddy case was $1,208,000. Our legal fees for that case have amounted to $1,326,000. Both of these amounts should be covered by insurance.

   Our expenses in the cases involving the other 26 priests were as follows: $306,000 of insurance monies has been paid in victim compensation and another $302,000 in legal fees, also of insurance monies. In addition, about $37,000 has been paid in counseling fees for victims and another $85,000 covered the cost of counseling for accused priests. These later two are not covered by insurance.

   While the financial costs have been burdensome for the Church, we need to think of the terrible cost of these crimes in terms of human suffering. No dollar amount can eliminate that pain. I am also concerned that there may be persons who need our help and support, and who have not yet come forward. I invite them to do so. We need to help them, as that is the only way that healing will occur. We also want to insure that our children will be safe in the future, by creating an environment that does not permit behaviors that put children at risk. 

   To that end, the following has been accomplished in our Diocesan Church. In 1987, we created a policy regarding improper ministerial behavior on the part of clergy, including the sin of sexual abuse of minors. That policy has been updated periodically and now includes inappropriate behavior on the Internet. We formed an Allegation Review Board, even before it was made mandatory. We are implementing a Safe Environment Program through Protecting God’s Children. I have appointed a Victims’ Advocate and a Victims’ Assistance Coordinator. Our Diocese was verified as being compliant with the CHARTER by the Gavin Group, which conducted the national audit.

   Please keep in mind that the study to be released on February 27 covers a period of 50 years and is unprecedented. There is no comparable study of any other group. As in the past, Christ’s Church is able to deal with sin, even that which the recent revelations have made known to us. As difficult as all this has been, we can take some solace in the fact that no known substantiated incidences have occurred within our Diocesan Church during the past 20 years.

   We cannot change history, but we can make every effort not to repeat it. Both the bishops and priests of our Church are sorrowfully aware that the misconduct to be detailed in the report is a complete contradiction of what the priest and bishop are meant to be, as well as what the Catholic people have a right to expect. Whatever the study reports about the number of victims and the number of abusers (out of the tens of thousands of priests of the last 50 years), there is a great predominance of dedicated deacons, priests, and bishops joining the Catholic Faithful in remaining authentic to their Christian calling. Nevertheless, we know that even one abuser and one victim is one too many. And, for that, no apology is enough.

   Finally, as we enter this holy season of prayer and penance, please consider making every effort to attend one of the four Penance Services being planned for our Diocese during Lent. We will gather for the specific purpose of seeking forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation; particularly with regard to the sin of the sexual abuse of children and teenagers. Together in prayer and action, we can be the Church that God wants us to be. May it happen during this Lenten Season!

Fraternally Yours in the Lord,

(Most Rev.) Joseph V. Adamec
 Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown

 

   
Bishop’s Statement
CIVIL LITIGATION vs. DIOCESE
August 12, 2003

    It is regrettable that sexual and physical abuse of minors has occurred and that there are individuals continuing to suffer as a result. It is deplorable that sexual abuse of minors has occurred at the hands of priests within the Roman Catholic Church.

    Today, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and its Bishops have been advised that they were again named defendants in civil litigation filed by Attorney Richard Serbin.

The complaints accuse the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, along with former Diocesan Bishop Hogan and me, of not handling cases of alleged minor abuse by priests appropriately. I believe that each one of us did, given the facts and circumstances, properly handle such cases.

    The assertions contained in the complaint have to do with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by two priests. While the diocese has not yet had an opportunity to review the complaint allegations and/or the basis for these allegations, the matters involve two diocesan priests, who are no longer in ministry. One left ministry in 1992 and died three years ago. The second is retired.
In both cases the statute of limitation in civil law has long expired.

    The legal action alleges that some sort of conspiracy exists within this Diocesan Church that allows and even promotes inappropriate behavior on the part of its priests in regard to minors. I deny and know of no such conspiracy; certainly, not within the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

    Bishop Hogan and I have both functioned individually, as the one entrusted with the overseeing of this Diocesan Church in his own particular time. Both of us have made decisions with the overall good of God’s people in mind. These decisions were based upon the best available data and professional advice available at those times. Current decisions are based upon the best available data and professional advice of today. As in other areas, this has changed over a period of time; and, not only for the Church but for society in general.

    In 1987, we put into writing our diocesan policy of taking allegations against our clergy seriously, meeting with both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator, seeking professional evaluation, assisting those injured, and following the advice of the professional evaluators in regard to continuance or discontinuance of public ministry. In all this, the confidentiality, to which all parties have a right, was maintained. Of course, the parties themselves could decide otherwise.

    It is my intention to follow the CHARTER adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the NORMS approved by the Holy See.

    It is not the policy of this Diocese, nor has it been, to assign priests who could be detrimental to children “to duties specifically involving minors.” 
   
    I assure you that the leadership of this Diocesan Church intends to protect minors from abuse by its clergy, employees, and volunteers.  In addition to implementing a mandatory training program “Protecting God’s Children” for all adults who work with or around children, we have a Victim’s Advocacy Program headed by Sister Marilyn Welch, CCW. Those who have been victims of abuse in the past are urged to call Sister Marilyn at 814-886-8250 or by email – victimadvocate@dioceseaj.org.  If you believe a child is currently at risk, we urge you to contact the proper authorities immediately.

    A Diocesan Bishop cannot regret deeply enough, nor apologize often enough, over the fact that some clergy took advantage of minors under their spiritual care in a most inappropriate way, a way that may have affected them for the rest of their lives. Nor can a Diocesan Bishop wish any more than we Bishops do today that we would have known what we now know about the treatment of offenders. And, a Diocesan Bishop cannot but thank God for the countless good and dedicated priests that we have serving his Church, not to mention the understanding faithful of that Church, who realize that it is composed of sinful individuals striving to become holy.

    For my part, I pledge a continued effort of encouraging our clergy, religious, and faithful toward holiness as individuals and as this Diocesan Church.