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Priest Abuse Allegations Linger In Rural Diocese

4 Lawsuits Filed By Alleged Victims In Past Month

Mar 7, 2003 |

There have been no allegations of recent abuse by priests in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese. But it seems that old wounds haven't healed.

In the past month, the diocese in rural west-central Pennsylvania has been buffeted by four lawsuits and allegations against five priests including at least three current priests by men who claim they were molested in the 1970s and 1980s.

Seven men have sued the church, claiming they were molested by four priests, including the Rev. Francis Luddy who was the target of a lawsuit in the late 1980s and was defrocked in 1998 after being suspended for several years.

Last week, the diocese placed the Rev. Martin McCamley on administrative leave pending an investigation into what it called "inappropriate actions" from the 1970s. Two brothers claim they were fondled by McCamley, a family friend, their attorney Caram Abood said.

The diocese said McCamley maintains his innocence.

The lawsuits and allegations, some of which were reported before, are the latest in almost a decade and the most public since the 1987 lawsuit against Luddy that resulted in a $1.2 million award against the diocese, about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Sister Mary Parks, a spokeswoman for the diocese, declined to comment Thursday, saying the church planned to release a statement Monday.

Bishop Joseph Adamec has maintained the diocese has corrected the problems of the past. He has repeatedly stated there have been no allegations of abuse occurring since he became bishop in 1987.

Altoona is not alone. Abuse by church officials has been in the spotlight since early last year, when a case in Boston spurred accusations against dioceses across America.

Victims say the recent revelations have shaken their faith in the diocese, which has about 100 priests and 110,000 parishioners in eight mostly rural counties.

Victims also say officials have done little to restore their trust or faith, especially after finding the priests they accused still practicing.

Two men earlier in the week filed lawsuits against the diocese after finding priests they accused in the early 1990s were still in the church.

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