LOCK HAVEN -- A child sexual abuse bombshell rocked a Roman Catholic diocese serving parts of our area last year. On Monday, church officials announced their plan to protect the children in the diocese.
Officials with the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown must now report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement within 12 hours.
And the diocese, in agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office, plans to have an outside agency investigate abuse claims.
This all comes one year after the state attorney general's office said over the years more than 50 priests sexually abused hundreds of children, including some in Clinton County. Officials at the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown hope the changes announced Monday will protect children.
It's hard to forget the state attorney general's grand jury report that brought to life sexual abuse at the hands of priests within the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
"I was upset, sick like everybody. I couldn't believe what was going on," said Renovo resident Jack O'Toole.
It's even harder to forget for another man who says he was sexually abused in the 1960s by a priest at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Renovo. He was 7 years old.
"Your whole family goes to that church, three-quarters of the town goes to that church. He's idolized. Who are you as a little kid to say something bad about this person?"
But now, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, along with the United States Attorney's office announced reforms to protect children from sexual abuse.
Diocesan officials, along with the U.S. Attorney's office say all reports of sexual abuse must be reported to law enforcement right away. Victims must also be provided with access to a full range of counseling and support services. An independent oversight board is being created to deal with allegations of abuse.
"Now it's completely out of the hands of anybody who would want to cover it up or would have motive to want to cover it up because I guess it would make the bishop look like he's not doing his job and the cardinal look like he's not doing his job."
In 2003, he was contacted by an attorney about an investigation into the abuse. He thinks the grand jury investigation and this most recent announcement took too long.
"I don't understand how it took 13 years, especially in north-central Pennsylvania where it was brought to light."
The man tells Newswatch 16 he came forward because he wanted to make sure the abuse does not happen to anyone else. He is no longer a practicing Catholic.