March 1, 2016 Update: PA Attorney General Issues Grand Jury Report on Massive, Decades-Long Cover Up [Hundreds of children may have been sexually abused by at least 50 priests and religious leaders within the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.]
Priest Abuse Scandal at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown
In the last few years, Pennsylvania has had its fair share of abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church. Like the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese has been embroiled in a large-scale priest abuse scandal. Altoona is located about an hour east of Pittsburgh.
In the last 10 years, multiple priests in the Altoona area have been removed from the ministry amid allegations of sexual abuse, several of those priests have committed suicide. The allegations vary and include reports of sexual assault of altar boys, students and even inmates.
In the latest development, Altoona area priest Martin Cingle has been placed on leave from a Catholic church in Boswell. According to multiple reports that cite a spokesman for the diocese, Cingle has been put on leave pending an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse in 2002.
Since 2005, eight Altoona area priests or friars have been accused, suspended or otherwise charged with crimes relating to sexual abuse of boys. The recent news involving Cingle brings the total number of priests to nine.
Some priest abuse/civil lawsuits have been filed in these cases. Most recently, in 2014, the local diocese settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought on behalf of literally dozens of men who claimed that a Franciscan priest abused them during his tenure as a religion teacher at a high school in Johnstown, PA. This priest committed suicide in 2013.
In addition, an Altoona area priest was convicted last month of engaging in sexual tourism, traveling to a Honduran orphanage to assault young boys.
Call for Victims & Witnesses to Step Forward
Local law enforcement remains tight-lipped about any investigation. It is unclear if an official criminal investigation has been opened.
Speaking up is crucial to prevention and can also facilitate change in organizations where such abuses occur. The culture of silence must be changed.
Anyone with knowledge about the allegations against Father Martin Cingle are invited to contact the law firm of Laffey, Bucci & Kent to discuss their legal obligations and rights. This includes current or former church employees, current or former teachers at associated schools, and of course, victims or survivors of abuse. CALL 800.220.7600