Burns appalled at scope of child molestation in Johnstown diocese

EBENSBURG, March 1 – Shaken by a grand jury report that 50 priests molested and raped children in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown over decades, state Rep. Frank Burns today condemned the mass cover-up and vowed to support legislation that would repeal the statute of limitations for such crimes.

Burns said it’s unfathomable that despite "staggering" abuse as reported by the state Office of Attorney General, no one can be criminally charged because they are either dead or too much time has passed.

"This strikes home for me, not only because of the dastardly deeds done in the Johnstown diocese over a half-century, but because I am a 1994 graduate of Bishop McCourt Catholic High School, where a report of alleged abuse led to this attorney general and grand jury investigation," Burns said. "Anyone who reads the grand jury report is going to be sickened at the scope of its findings, including the widespread influence of the diocese in local politics and law enforcement in hushing things up."

Burns said anyone who sexually preys on children should be dealt with in court, which is why he supports House legislation that would expand the time frames to file criminal charges and civil suits. Burns said he will back such measures, including H.B. 951, which would create a two-year window for past victims to file civil suits.

"The shameful conduct of the diocese high command, which as documented the grand jury returned priests to ministry work despite knowing they were child predators, is bad enough," Burns said. "But what’s worse is that those who perpetrated these heinous crimes can escape completely if enough years go by. We need to change that, so justice can be served in one form or another."