Grand jury accuses former Columbus priest of sexually abusing child

ALTOONA, Pa. (WCMH)–A priest who worked at Columbus’s Pontifical College Josephinum for more than 20 years was accused Tuesday of sexually abusing a child in Pennsylvania.

Monsignor Harold J. Burkhardt, who died in 2000, was one of dozens of church leaders named in a sweeping indictment by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office.

Burkhardt was assigned to the Pontifical College Josephinum from 1947-1971, the report said. He then went to a church in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania for about two years and on to another church in Altoona, where he spent 15 years.

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, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane’s office announced.

The widespread abuse involved at least 50 priests or religious leaders, Kane’s office announced.

Burkhardt is accused of fondling a 9-year-old boy while at St. Mary Immaculate Conception church in Altoona and forcing the boy to perform oral sex acts on him, among other things. Burkhardt allegedly told the boy that God approved of these actions.

In 2005, after Burkhardt died, the victim allegedly reported the abuse to the diocese. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office said the diocese did not report the abuse to the police. Instead, the diocese hired a private detective to investigate the victim, interviewed another priest to get information about the victim and his family, and looked through Burkhardt’s personnel file.

 

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