Diocesan priest placed on leave following allegations of sexual misconduct in Cambria Co.

WJAC TV News, Pennsylvania/August 24, 2012

Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania - The Bishop of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has placed Rev. George D. Koharchik, pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Mount Union, on leave from active ministry in the priesthood after allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors in Cambria County dating back more than 30 years.

While on leave, Koharchik, 63, will not be permitted to function as a priest and he will reside at a place where he has no contact with children, according to a news release from the diocese.

The decision is in compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

"Children are a precious gift from God, and we must always take the necessary steps to ensure their protection in the Catholic Church," said the Most Rev. Mark L. Bartchak, Bishop of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, in the release. "I pray for the alleged victims in this case and for all children who have suffered sexual abuse in our society. May the Lord grant them healing, comfort, and peace. Let us also remember the parish family of Saint Catherine of Siena in Mount Union during these difficult days. As Diocesan Bishop, I pledge my continued prayers and support to that faith community and the entire Church of Altoona-Johnstown."

Bartchak has notified the Cambria County District Attorney of the accusations against Koharchik.

"Father Koharchik's future status will be determined at the appropriate time after consulting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican. The Bishop's report to the Vatican will not interfere with the jurisdiction of the District Attorney's office in this matter," the release said.

A visiting priest will conduct Mass at Saint Catherine of Siena Parish this weekend per the parish's normal schedule and a letter from Bartchak will be read to parishioners at all Masses.

Bartchak will appoint a temporary administrator to oversee the daily affairs of the parish, and visiting priests will continue to celebrate Mass and the sacraments at the church until a new pastor is appointed. Daily Mass at the parish will not be held during the week of Aug. 27.

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