Hollidaysburg, Blair County, Pa. - The Most Rev. Mark L. Bartchak, Bishop of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, has placed Rev. Anthony J. Petracca on leave from public ministry. The action comes after an accusation of misconduct involving a minor that allegedly occurred in the mid 1980s. Bishop Bartchak has notified law enforcement of the accusation against Father Petracca.
The Diocese's Secretary of Communications Tony DeGol explained, "Bishop Mark did alert the authorities and it is now in their hands so, they will determine what is going to happen next we will wait to hear from them to see what the next steps will be."
While on leave, Father Petracca will not be permitted to function as a priest, and he will reside at a place where he will not have contact with children.
DeGol said, "While he is on leave, Father Petracca will not be able to function publicly as a priest and will reside at a place where he has no contact with minors."
Father Petracca, 61, is a native of Darby, Pennsylvania. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in 1985 and has served as Parochial Vicar at numerous parishes. Recently, he was appointed Administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Altoona and Chaplain at UPMC Altoona. Monsignor Michael Becker, who had been serving as Administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes for the past several months, will continue to serve in that role and continue as Pastor of Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Altoona.
"I want to once again stress my commitment to the safety and protection of all children in our Diocese," said Bishop Bartchak. "Please know that I am taking all necessary steps to ensure the well-being of our youth, and I ask the faithful to join me in praying for all those affected by this case."
DeGol said that alerting the public is a part of their commitment to transparency. He said, "We know it's shocking for a lot of people. Particularly those who have interacted with the priest in the past, we know that this is hard to digest for a lot of people. But, it's important that they be aware what's going because again the top priority for the Bishop and all of us is the safety and protection of all children. "
The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown urges anyone with information about misconduct involving children to report it to law enforcement immediately. Information may also be reported to the PA Child Hotline at 1-800-932-0313.