The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 6, 2013

Bishop McCort dialogue needed

Avid supporters deserving of answers

— That more than 300 people attended a hastily called rally Monday night for Bishop McCort Catholic High School was impressive.

Some were on hand at the Richland Township Fire Department’s banquet facility to demonstrate support for suspended Principal Ken Salem. Overall, though, those who gathered said they were weary of ongoing controversy and eager for answers from the 8th Ward school’s leadership.

“I think everybody that is here feels the same: Bishop McCort needs Ken Salem,” Richard M. DelSignore said, adding that the meeting was a good way to get organized. 

Just as importantly, said co-organizer Bob McGowan, “We are really trying to minimize the rumors. We want to try to deal with facts. We are trying to provide a venue in which everybody in this room can be heard.”

Bishop McCort has been embroiled in controversy in a widespread sex-abuse scandal involving the late Franciscan Brother Stephen Baker.

In talking about Salem’s suspension, his attorney mentioned the Baker scandal. But nothing official has come either from Salem or school officials.

While legal procedures understandably have school officials anxious and moving cautiously, a public dialogue  is overdue.

McCort’s very existence depends on its vast number of financial supporters. Being less than frank and open with those people would be unwise.

As McGowan pointed out, the school is responsible for minimizing rumors. That can be done only by answering questions on the Baker matter and the Salem suspension.

Those attending Monday’s rally submitted written questions and signed up as members of the proposed organization, Friends and Family of Bishop McCort.

Lawyer Timothy Burns, a co-sponsor of the session, is to serve as legal counsel to incorporate the nonprofit.

The first order of business, Burns said, was to approach trustees for answers.

We agree that it would behoove school leadership to get together with the group – and the public in general  – sooner rather than later.

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