"People Start to Heal the Moment they are Heard" Cheryl Richardson

Back Left: Carolyn Fortney, Teresa Fortney-Miller
Front Left: Saundra Fortney-Colello, Jeanne Fortney-Webster
They were a devout catholic family, 8 girls and 1 boy. Their father Ed, worked as a drywall finisher and mother Pat, was a stay at home mom. Even with the struggles of supporting such a large family financially, Ed and Pat were determined and felt strongly about the importance of all children attending Catholic Church and Catholic School.
Lara Fortney with mother and father at her 1st Holy Commuion May 4, 1980. (Officiated by then Pastor Father Hugh A. Overbaugh who is implicated in the PA Grand Jury Report as being a key conspirator in the cover-up of child sexual abuse within the Harrisburg Catholic Diocese, including the Fortney Family Case.)
Youngest, Carolyn Fortney at, Christmas Mass carrying baby Jesus to the manger. (Father Giella promised her this "honor" every Christmas because she was "special to him")
  • In 1982, 63 year old Reverend Augustine M. Giella was assigned to St. John's Parish, whose church was in the very same building as the grade-school classrooms of Bishop Neumann Catholic School. One day, Father Giella visited Lara's 5th grade classroom and asked for a volunteer to help at the rectory. From the sea of raised hands, he chose Lara, who felt extremely honored and excited to take on her new duties. She started working at the rectory after school helping with many "secretarial" tasks like filing and making copies. He then invited Lara and her older sister Patty (8th grade-13 years old) to help count the collection on Sunday's after church at the rectory. He paid them for their work and would then reward them with lunch at various restaurants. He made the girls feel like they were special and they wholeheartedly believed it. They began to feel safe with him and felt very honored to be the "chosen ones". Upon dropping them off at home, he started meeting other members of the family including their Mother and Father, Pat and Ed and all the younger children who would run out into the driveway to greet him. On many occasions, the girl's would invite him inside where he was granted the best seat at the table out of reverence for his position. His visits would last for hours as he shared with the family the many interesting aspects about the priesthood. He was engaging, funny and his stories were fascinating. These early visits to the Fortney home were used as the foundation on which he began to devise and shape his immoral plan. Using calculated methods, he began the grooming process and eventually gained the trust of the entire family as he became their teacher, encourager, confidant and friend. The family revered him and loved him deeply.

The Fortneys were a large, loving family who worked together to care for one another. Father Giella was their family priest who presented as the one who was fully committed to the spiritual well-being of all the children. It all seemed moral and healthy in nature, but they would later find out that it was quite the opposite; It was premeditated evil.
Father Giella took the girls on a trip to Six Flags Great Adventure Amusement Park.

On this trip, he drove the girls across state lines, where he won favor with a Park Adventure and gifts. Often, he would trade small treats or gifts for their promise of silence.

  • Father Giella began taking the girls on trips, buying them presents and treats. His actions were with the intent to groom the girls as to make each of them feel more secure and confident.
  • The sexual abuse began almost immediately upon his appointment to the parish. OVER the course of 10 years, he molested Five OF THE FORTNEY DAUGHTERS. His conduct included a wide array of crimes cognizable as misdemeanors and felonies under Pennsylvania law.

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The New York Times.. August 14, 2018
Victims of clerical sex abuse and their relatives reacted as Attorney General, Josh Shapiro discussed Grand Jury Report at news conference in Harrisburg. Credit Matt Rourke/Associated Press
Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and police officers not to investigate it, according to a report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday. The report, which covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. There have been ten previous reports by grand juries and attorneys general in the United States, according to the research and advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, but those examined single dioceses or counties. The report catalogs horrific instances of abuse, including a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out, and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a 17-year-old girl, forging a signature on a marriage certificate and then divorcing the girl. “Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” the grand jury wrote. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.” The grand jury added that the church officials named in their report have been protected, and some have been promoted. “Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal,” the jury wrote. The report said that church officials followed a “playbook for concealing the truth:” minimize the abuse using words like “inappropriate contact” instead of “rape”; assign priests untrained in sexual abuse cases to investigate their colleagues; when removing an accused priest, don’t inform the community of the real reasons.
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the FORTNEY FAMILY is committed to share their story to bring change. For Media and all questions:
Phyllis Parsons
925-934-5300 (office)
925-788-0010 (cell)
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