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2 more priests accused of molesting

Altoona-Johnstown Diocese targeted

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

By Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

ALTOONA -- An Altoona attorney who filed suit last month accusing two priests of molesting six young parishioners -- now middle-aged men -- returned to Blair County Common Pleas Court yesterday and named another two priests and another two alleged victims.

Although the lawsuit, filed yesterday by attorney Richard Serbin, involved different priests and different victims, it carried the same accusation as the lawsuit filed a month ago: that the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown was more interested in hiding priestly misconduct than in reining in miscreant clerics.

"This is something I revealed to the diocese over 10 years ago, and to this day, they have done nothing about it," said one plaintiff, a 37-year-old Altoona man who claimed that, for four years he was molested as a teenage altar boy at St. Patrick Church in Newry, Blair County.

While the diocese put one of the priests on medical leave and out of circulation last year, it stood by the other, saying that professional evaluations "failed to substantiate concern."

The Blair County cases -- which, under court procedure, don't specify the amount of damages sought -- accuse the Rev. Bernard Grattan, now on medical leave, and the Rev. Robert Kelly, a former State College priest now heading SS. Peter & Paul Church in Philipsburg, Centre County.

Neither of the priests is named as defendants, due to a two-year statute of limitations.

Instead, the lawsuit targets the diocese, Bishop Joseph Adamec and retired Bishop James Hogan, accusing them of a continuing coverup.

A year-and-a-half ago, after a titanic, 14-year legal fight, the diocese paid $1.2 million to satisfy part of another molestation suit Serbin filed.

"The evil that motivates these acts thrives because of the secrecy that surrounds them," one of Serbin's plaintiffs told a news conference yesterday, moments before the other plaintiff dropped his head into his arms and sobbed.

"It's going to take time for these people to tell someone they can trust," Serbin said yesterday of the years it took the claims to surface.

The Post-Gazette has not named the plaintiffs -- the Altoona man and a 39-year-old State College resident -- under its policy barring identification of possible victims of sexual abuse.

The diocese yesterday issued a statement saying that it gave both plaintiffs help in getting therapy, although a diocese spokeswoman said she could not specify what that help was.

The Altoona man's lawsuit accuses Grattan of acts ranging from fondling to masturbation, in venues that included the church school and the priest's car.

The diocese said yesterday that in 1994, after accusations surfaced, Grattan underwent "several months" of therapy before being moved to another rectory with another priest for what a diocesan spokeswoman said likely was a short stay.

The diocesan spokeswoman said he apparently served most of his time as a hospital chaplain before being placed on medical leave last year. Grattan "no longer functions as a priest," the diocese said.

The State College man's lawsuit charges that he was a 12-year-old altar boy in Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in State College when Kelly began molesting him.

Over two years, the molestation involved fondling and groping, carried on in venues from the church rectory to a Centre County fire tower, the lawsuit charges.

Kelly was given therapy, then placed in administrative posts after the accusation was raised in 1993, the diocese reported. In 1999, he was given his own parish in Philipsburg amid his denials of wrongdoing and, according to the diocese, evaluations that "failed to raise concern."

In another matter yesterday, the diocese confirmed that the Rev. Martin McCamley, a State College priest, was placed on administrative leave Friday while the diocese investigates molestation accusations dating to his service three decades ago at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown and at St. Patrick Church there.

Johnstown attorney Caram Abood said three men and the brother of a fourth told of fondling and other advances by McCamley. For now, all are more interested in seeing McCamley removed from an active priesthood than in going to court, Abood said.


Tom Gibb can be reached at tgibb@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1601.

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