Fifteen Years After Dallas, Part One: The Altoona-Johnstown Grand Jury Report

Read the Introduction to this series here.

In 2016, the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General announced that “a statewide investigating grand jury has determined that hundreds of children were sexually abused over a period of at least 40 years by priests or religious leaders assigned to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-­Johnstown.”

The two-year investigation included a search warrant of the Altoona Bishop’s “secret archive.” That secret archive is the file cabinet under lock and key in the bishop’s office that holds evidence of child sex abuse and cover-up, including letters, reports, photos, records, statements, memos, etc. A bishop is required to keep this file under Canon Law.

The report also determined former Altoona Bishop Joseph Adamec was at the forefront of the cover-up and acted to avoid scandal rather than protect children.

The widespread abuse involved at least 50 priests or religious leaders and endangered thousands of children and allowed proven child predators to abuse additional victims.

The complete grand jury report can be read here.

Reforms Take a Year … Yet Look Oddly Familiar

A year later, in 2017, Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown Diocese announced “reforms” in conjunction with the Attorney General’s office.

Bishop Mark L. Bartchak

Those reforms included:

  1. The creation of an independent, multidisciplinary oversight board;
  2. The retention of an outside expert to develop a new, comprehensive child abuse prevention program;
  3. A reporting protocol that requires the Diocese to report allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement within twelve hours after receipt; and
  4. Counseling and support services for victims by qualified and independent mental health professionals chosen by the victims.

Sound familiar? They should.

All of the above items were already a part of the 2002 Dallas Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its Norms.

 You can read the Charter here–note where you can find the corresponding reforms:

Item A is Dallas Charter Norm Number 4;

Item B is Dallas Charter Articles 9 and 12;

Item C is Dallas Charter Articles 2 and 4; and

Item D is Dallas Charter Article 1.


So … it takes Bishop Mark L. Bartchak a year to copy and paste reforms from 2002?

Hundreds of kids are sexually abused in his diocese and all he can do is rewrite his own booklet?

I guess the next question is: how much has he spent to lobby against legislative reform for victims of child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania? Wait … I don’t want to know.

Next up, Part Two: Crooked dealings in Crookston

4 thoughts on “Fifteen Years After Dallas, Part One: The Altoona-Johnstown Grand Jury Report

  1. Sadly, as a civilian investigator I’ve posted similar information with every imaginable agency, person, group, non-profit, foundation, diocese, media throughout the world, and no one has ever called me for additional information.

    Wendell Hissrich the new Public Safety Director for the city of Pittsburgh was a Paramedic/Crew Chief 1985 to 1990 for the city of Pittsburgh.

    Hissrich does not recall former Catholic priest Father John Wellinger drugging former University of Pittsburgh student, Greg Witkowski in 1987. Nor does he recall Pittsburgh EMS crew driving Witkowski to then Presbyterian University Hospital Emergency Room.

    It happened everywhere, not only in Boston, Philly or the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. But especially in the Pittsburgh Diocese where Synchronized Crime made Catholic clergy sex abuse vanish.
    Read for yourself and judge for yourself:

    An Open Letter to William and Kimberly Gaines proud parents of Billy Gaines, a former University of Pittsburgh student and football player who fell to his death due to the corruption of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese.
    Sadly, Mr. & Mrs. Gaines I have to be the one to tell you that Billy’s untimely death could have and should have been prevented. For over 25 years I’ve been trying to expose the dysfunctional and deviant behavior of a former Catholic priest from the Pittsburgh Diocese. His name is Father
    John Wellinger.

    Billy was not the only University of Pittsburgh student to be victimized by a Catholic priest, nor the only young man to lose his life because of a Catholic priest from the Pittsburgh Diocese.
    I can assure you that I have tried everything imaginable to expose the criminal behavior of Catholic priests in the Pittsburgh Diocese, especially Father John Wellinger. Had I successfully exposed Wellinger, there’s no doubt in my mind, your son, Billy would still be alive.

    What’s worse, there were so many others who could easily have exposed Wellinger but deliberately covered-up his crimes; again had any one of these dozens and dozens of people done the right thing, your son Billy would be alive today.

    I take no pleasure in writing this letter even though I know it may finally force people to confront the truth. And, I know it won’t bring Billy back, but it might save others. I have a feeling Billy would want to help others.

    Here’s what I know for sure and why Billy could still be alive today if only those people in charge would have done the right thing.

    From 1981 to 1985 Father John Wellinger abused a young boy at St. James Parish in Wilkinsburg where Wellinger served as the assistant pastor. The young boy’s name was Jeffrey Wennersten who passed away at the age of 42, leaving a young son. Just weeks before Jeffrey died he shared details of the abuse he suffered at the hands of Pittsburgh Catholic priest Father John Wellinger.

    Sometime in early 1987, possibly February or March, Father John Wellinger and a University of Pittsburgh student, Greg Witkowski were sharing beers in an Oakland apartment that Greg rented with his brother, who was also a Pitt student. Greg admitted to me that Wellinger often provided alcohol for Greg and his brother. On this occasion Wellinger also drugged Greg with a
    substance that knocked him out for hours. When Greg regained consciousness he intuitively called 911. Scared, Greg said he raced down the flights of stairs to meet the EMS crew and ambulance that transported the still dazed student to Presbyterian University Hospital, now known as University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

    For whatever reason, the emergency room doctors refused to treat Greg even though he ingested an unfamiliar substance, administered by a lay person, with malicious intentions and alcohol was part of the mix.

    This was years before the Boston scandal exploded, so the Catholic Church still maintained its grip on plenty of institutions, it appears that the University of Pittsburgh was one of them and its affiliate, Presbyterian University Hospital.

    Father Wellinger trailed the ambulance to the emergency room and took Witkowski by surprise. Staying calm, Witkowski asked Wellinger to fetch his nurse. When the nurse arrived, Witkowski explained that Wellinger was the person who had drugged him. No police were called, not even hospital security.

    Witkowski’s parents Robert and Ann were summoned to the hospital and asked to take their son home. I do not know who or if anyone ever paid the hospital bill. According to former Clairton Public Safety Director William Scully, he explained to me in 1990 that a hospital worker advised Robert and Ann Witkowski not to press charges and further cautioned the parents that the Catholic Church was too powerful to challenge.

    Several days later Robert Witkowski would confront Father John Wellinger at Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin, PA. Father Wellinger was the parish priest and the Witkowski family were members. At the time Robert Witkowski came banging on the front door of the rectory, a parish council meeting was going on with several eyewitnesses to the event. I interviewed one of the eyewitnesses who was also Father Wellinger’s secretary. Her name is
    Marta Placek.

    According to Placek the council members were concerned that Robert Witkowski was drunk and may have had a gun, so West Mifflin Police were called. No charges or arrests were made. My guess is if any questions were asked by West Mifflin police, they quickly forgot the answers.
    Over the years I spoke with Robert Witkowski on several occasions. He never volunteered very much information. He did admit that he received a letter from the legal department of the Pittsburgh Diocese or one of their law firms commanding Robert Witkowski to stay off the property at Holy Spirit Church and to stay away from Father Wellinger.

    If any of this had been exposed, like it should have been, college students throughout the Pittsburgh area would have been warned about Catholic priests such as Father John Wellinger. Freshman orientation would have been the appropriate time to issue the proper alerts. Sadly, too many people failed to take their jobs seriously. Worse yet, folks in charge succumbed to
    the wishes of evil men in black robes; most likely because they are scared to death of Catholic Church hierarchy.

    Your son Billy wasn’t the only boy victimized by Father John Wellinger. There were many; too many. Here are some of them, all before your son even thought about playing football at the University of Pittsburgh.

    One boy was Chris Mathews an 11-year-old altar boy who served under Father John Wellinger at Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin, PA. Although, I do not know the details of the sexual abuse, I know Chris Mathews very well and his father, as well. His abuse took place in 1989.
    Also in 1989, a young boy from Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin took his own life. He killed himself with a shotgun blast. Was this young man another victim of Father John Wellinger. I do not know. As a civilian investigator, I have very few resources to conduct an investigation. Without a badge or even a press pass, most people would shy away from talking to me; all
    fearful of the Catholic Church.

    1989 was not a good year for former altar boys of John Wellinger. Robert Butler served under Father John Wellimger at St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Clairton, PA. Butler also attended the parochial school, it was known as Clairton Central Catholic. Butler and his circle of friends were often invited to the rectory for fun and games with Father Wellinger. The game room had a pool table and pinball machines, I was told.

    Butler would kill himself with what I believe was a 32-caliber pistol on his way to Serra Catholic High School in McKeesport, PA. One shot to his right temple, he probably died instantly. Before killing himself, Butler tried to murder my son, Adam with a bullet discharged inches away from the back of my son’s skull.

    Miraculously, my son survived and thrived. It’s the main reason why after 25 years, I’m still fighting to expose Father John Wellinger and all the harm he did to others. There’s no doubt in my mind that Wellinger sexually abused Robert Butler.

    I spoke to many people about Wellinger. I would state with absolute
    certainty that Wellinger’s sexual activity with young boys, young men and older women was common knowledge in every parish where the preying priest served.

    The women who worked in the cafeteria and volunteered to watch the children on the playground at Clairton Central Catholic knew to keep their children away from Wellinger. According to Mrs. Ann Weeks, the cafeteria manager at the time, Wellinger liked to parade around the playground covering the younger children faces with his long black rope and smothering their heads into his genitals; separated only by a thin layer of clothing.

    One of the things I learned through my 25 years investigating the Catholic Church is that Catholic parents don’t give a damn about other children. As long as their children’s heads weren’t being squeezed in Wellinger’s private parts; that’s all that mattered. Wellinger was at St. Clare of Assisi in Clairton in 1985 and 86 or so. I was told by a Catholic priest that a man with the last name, Volmer went to talk to Father Charles Bober and complained about Father Wellinger’s predatory behavior and nothing was done.

    Father Bober is a big time operator in the Pittsburgh Diocese raising millions of dollars for the Cardinal Donald Wuerl Catholic High School. He’s got a plum position in a financially well-off parish church in the north hills section of Pittsburgh. Possibly a reward for keeping his nose clean and his mouth shut.

    Again, if this is true, your son Billy should have and could have been alive today.
    Back in 1987 or 1988, Marta Placek, Wellinger’s secretary at Holy Spirit Church in West Mifflin, PA went to the Pittsburgh Diocese to protest Wellinger’s behavior at Holy Spirit Church. Her complaint included Wellinger providing living arrangements for a young man, possibly from St. James Parish in Wilkinsburg, PA, yet another parish that witnessed at least one young man who suffered as a result of Wellinger’s demons.

    Instead of Placek’s concerns being taken seriously, she was labeled a gossip hound by Pittsburgh Diocesan spokesman, Father Ron Lengwin. Certainly, by the time Placek lodged her complaints, Wellinger’s dossier was simply too depraved to reveal. One could easily make the argument that Wellinger’s file was so wicked and dreadful, he may have been able to blackmail church hierarchy.
    In any event, if any of Wellinger’s alleged crimes would have been and should have been reported your son, Billy and his friends would have known better than to trust a Catholic priest overly eager to offer alcohol to underage young men.

    After all these years something made me reach out to you, William and Kimberly Gaines. I hope it makes a difference. I hope I did the right thing. I know your son, Billy was a good boy and a very tough football player.

    I tried and tried to expose the truth. I wish I could have done more. I really believe Billy could be alive today.

    Maybe, just maybe, it was Billy who spurred me on to write this letter. Maybe someday, we’ll find out.

    God Bless you William and Kimberly Gaines and God Bless Billy.

    Warm regards,
    Mike Ference

  2. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference highlighted politicians playing dirty at the State Capitol in their May 10,, 2017 article led by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) planting fresh vegetables.

    Catholic Conference has lots of experience in playing dirty, like sending pedophiles down to South America years ago , where outcries would stay local; and of ignoring justice for all victims of child sex abuse. They love to brag about all the $ spent on therapy for Catholic survivors while ignoring therapy for Non Catholics.

    I guess ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ doesn’t apply to Upper Management of The Catholic Conference.

  3. For what it’s worth, PA Attorney General’s office has grand juries investigating Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Westmoreland, Allentown, Erie (and maybe others). Beginning in a few months staggered, scathing reports will be issued for each diocese, and nothing will be done.

    Sad to say, but that’s the truth.

    PA is a cesspool of corruption. Our government leaders are easily swayed by the Catholic hierarchy and their money.

  4. .

    Truly AMAZING.
    Sadder still, “our elected officials from politicians to DA’s allow this game playing.”

    The “Child Victims Act”, has a Proven, Evidence Based track record in MANY other states around the country…But is NOT ALLOWED here in NY or Pa..  ***Why?***

     – Hundreds of Predator Pediphiles have been Exposed in Unsuspecting communities throughout the U.S. EXCEPT IN NY or Pa..  ***WHY?***

     – Many Victims of Child Rape, have finally recieved the Justice they were once Denied under “Antiquated” Laws & have also been Validated & Freed from a Life Sentence of living in “TORMENTED SILENCE”. EXCEPT IN NY and Pa..  ***WHY?***

    Of ALL those who were Sexually Abused as Children:
     – 57% are Incest,
     – 39% are teachers, coaches, babysitters etc.
     – 4% in Religious communities
    Of the 4%, Less than 2% Come from Catholic(Priests, Nuns).



    Last year(Sept. 2016) the Pennsylvania Attorney General empaneled a Grand Jury to Investigate Bishop Barres and his diocese of Allentown Pa. as a result of rampant “Child Rape”.
    ***That Grand Jury is STILL Investigating bishop Barres and his diocese of Allentown.***

    …Guess WHO Pope Francis SHUFFELED OUT OF ALLENTOWN TO LONG ISLAND, NY’s Diocese of Rockville Centre, to Replace bishop Murphy(From Boston).


    Bottom Line…
    The bishops take their orders from the only true country they recognize as being Above ALL. That country is a 100 acre museum whose illegitimate sovereignty was given them by blackmailing Musolini for the catholic vote.
    …in other word, “the bishops and their minions are nothing but Foriegn Agents”.

    Thank god, the world is slowly waking to this fact.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *