Five sisters from Pennsylvania were abused by the same Catholic priest in the early 1980s, when one of them was only 18 months old, in the latest shocking example of child sex crimes in the American branch of the church.
The sisters Fortney, Patty, Lara, Teresa and Carolyn said Father Augustine Giella would regularly give them gifts before the attacks, one of which took place in Patty, 13, while her other three sisters watched.
"I was constantly hugging in front of them, kissing in front of them, trying to stick my tongue in my mouth," Patty Fortney-Julius told CBS News. Lara was then 10 years old, Teresa in first grade and Carolyn one. Another sister chose not to talk.
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The Fortney sisters suffered horrific sexual abuse at the hands of their local Pennsylvania priest in the 1980s. In the photo from left to right: Carolyn Fortney, Teresa Fortney-Miller, Laura Fortney McKeever, Patty Fortney-Julius
Giella, her local pastor in Enhaut, was a friend of the trusted family who was often invited to family meals, where he said grace.
"Even at the table in our kitchen, everything that happened in front of my parents' faces happened that they could not see," said Lara Fortney McKeever.
Through his deceit and high esteem as a priest of the Catholic Church, Giella was able to hide the abuse for years.
"He continually reminded me," He is my priest, he is the mediator between God and man, "said Patty Fortney-Julius.
Father Giella, (pictured) his local pastor in Enhaut, was a friend of the trusted family who was often invited to family meals, where he said: grace
With 18 months of the abuse, Caroloyn said he only realized what happened when he turned 12. "I was watching a movie of a priest bothering the altar boys and that's the day I put it together," he said.
Giella retired from the church in 1989 but the Fortneys still saw it. Three years later, a family member found a box containing child pornography, including nude photos of Caroloyn.
The parents of the children, Ed and Patty, reported the photos to the Diocese of Harrisburg, while a sister called the services for children, who informed the police. Giella was accused of sexual assault and possession of child pornography, but died awaiting trial.
Although deprived of true justice, the sisters resolved two civil claims with the Diocese of Harrisburg.
The sisters said that they avoided talking about the abuse as adults, but decided to talk about it three years ago to prevent other children from experiencing the same thing.
"I think there's going to be a change," said Fortney-Miller. "I pray that there will be a change because nobody should live like this with this pain, no one should, it's every day, but I have hope now, I do. & # 39;
It is believed that about 1,000 children have been abused by 300 predatory priests in six dioceses of Pennsylvania, according to a recent report. Forty-five of the priests named in a grand jury report served in the Diocese of Harrisburg.
Through his deceit and the great esteem he had as a priest of the Catholic Church, Giella (in the image) was able to hide the abuse for years.
Giella retired from the church in 1989 but the Fortneys still saw it. Three years later, a relative niece found a box containing child pornography, including nude pictures of Caroloyn
The diocese said it sent its "deepest apologies and prayers" for not stopping the abuse.
The Bishop of Harrisburg, Ronald Gainer, was named in the report for not defending the abandonment of an abusive priest. The diocese defended Gainer, saying he took swift action against that priest and another abusive priest after becoming bishop in 2014.
While acknowledging that the church is facing a "spiritual crisis", Gainer said that the majority of the abuse happened a long time ago.
The diocese has taken "meaningful and effective measures to protect our children and eliminate anyone who intends to harm them," he said.
The large number of children who were abused by Catholic priests in the United States has begun to come to light recently.
On Thursday, officials in New York, New Jersey and New Mexico announced investigations into how the church had handled allegations of abuse. Missouri recently announced a similar investigation.
Teresa was in first grade when the abuse occurred, while Carolyn (right) was only 18 months old.