State College, Pa. — March 1, 2016 – An attorney who represented many of the Penn State child sexual abuse victims says the new Pennsylvania grand jury report on widespread sexual abuse of children in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic diocese reveals the all-too-common pattern of a powerful institution enabling and empowering child predators at the root of the Penn State-Sandusky and other sex abuse scandals.
Andrew Shubin, a State College child sexual abuse attorney who represented multiple Sandusky Penn State sexual abuse victims, and whose work was recently featured in Happy Valley, a documentary detailing the Penn State abuse scandal, announced that his firm is investigating sexual abuse allegations against priests in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic diocese. Shubin said he will be working to ensure that predator priests and the indifferent church hierarchy that provided them with access to a stream of children, are held accountable in court for the catastrophic harm they inflicted.
“When the highest and most powerful officials in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese gave pedophile priests access to an unending stream of children, and the time, space and cover to groom and abuse them, they betrayed children, families and a community,” Shubin said. “We give schools, churches and coaches our children and trust and they give pedophiles the ammunition essential to abuse – indifference. How many children could have been saved had diocesan leaders cared more about kids than the church’s reputation?”
Shubin said that the attention surrounding today’s announcement will re-traumatize many of the brave young men who came forward and urged journalists and the community to honor their privacy and confidentiality. Shubin added that survivors and their families should be treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect and need to be provided with access to professional resources, including experienced legal counsel and mental health providers that specialize in the treatment of sexual assault trauma. “The focus has to be on the victims and their rights, not on the reputation of an institution. The focus has to be the pursuit of justice for these victims.”
“Many in the Catholic community seek absolution for a church and a religion by arguing that the conviction of specific abusers settles the issue of culpability: The abuser is solely responsible,” Shubin said. “Expect a similar refrain from church officials over the new grand jury report – a claim that these are nothing more than bad apple priests — convict them and move on. Don’t be fooled by these arguments. Institutions do more than enable abuse, they cause it. Protecting our children demands more than jailing a predator – it requires holding institutions and their leaders accountable for betraying and catastrophically injuring our children.”
Shubin encourages anyone who experienced sexual abuse by diocesan priests, and who would like to explore the potential for recovering damages from the church for letting this happen, to contact him at 814-867-8810.