ALTOONA – Bishop Joseph V. Adamec was a gregarious extrovert, who, in retirement, was forced into the life of an introvert.
The conversion process was the central theme of a homily, given by the Rev. Jude Brady from Saint Benedict Roman Catholic Church in Carrolltown, during Adamec’s funeral Mass at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on Tuesday.
Adamec retired as bishop in 2011, having served in the position since 1987.
After he stepped down, an increasing amount of child sexual abuse cases within the diocese began to become publicly known. Then, in 2016, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General issued a grand jury report that provided details about the diocese covering up child sexual abuse for decades, placing much of the responsibility on Adamec and his predecessor, Bishop James Hogan.
The scandal was not mentioned directly during the funeral for the bishop emeritus who died last Wednesday at 83 – in Washington County – after being diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm and kidney problems, according to the diocese.
But Brady alluded to it during his remarks.
“Retirement for an extroverted individual is very hard, but he attempted to do the very best that he could,” Brady said. “Circumstances within the diocese required that he had to learn to live a very private and quiet life. This required him to work on developing another side of his personality – a completely different mode of behavior.”
Brady said Adamec, who resided in Hollidaysburg at the time of his death, would refer to himself as a “hermit.”
“This new life of solitude was very challenging for him in the beginning,” Brady said. “He felt the aloneness to be very hard and – at times – even very, very overwhelming. In spiritual theology, we see that as one begins to draw closer to the Lord, there is a period of darkness, showing itself in anxiety, questioning and even depression. And it’s commonly called ‘a dark night of faith.’ It is very, very normal for one to wonder what’s going on, to question the Lord, our place in the world and our relationships with those around us. He did all of this for a couple years, and it was a very difficult part of his conversion process.”
The father continued: “In fact, it was quite impressive to see the conversion, the transition and the change from not liking the quiet to a very active acceptance of that part of his life.”
Adamec kept the victims of abuse in his mind, according to Brady.
“He offered all of his Masses – and this was said to me every single time I met him – and his prayers for the healing of the victims of sex abuse, as well as for the healing of our diocese and that of the church in the United States of America,” he said.
Born on Aug. 13, 1935, in Bannister, Michigan, the son of Czechoslovakian immigrants, he was ordained a priest in Rome on July 3, 1960.
As bishop of Altoona-Johnstown, he prioritized liturgical renewal, lay ministry formation and continued development of the permanent diaconate. He created a committee to study parish reconfiguration that led to the merging of parishes.
He also supported the canonization effort for Father Demetrius Gallitzin, a Russian prince who gave up his noble title in the late-1700s and eventually became known as the Apostle of the Alleghenies.
Adamec still held Masses, for a while, after retirement.
“I came out today because, when he originally retired, he came to my home parish, St Mary’s, and he was really a big part of my life,” Kenny Brumbaugh, a Hollidaysburg resident, said before entering the cathedral. “He was a mentor, a friend, great family friend. All throughout my years through grade school and even high school, he was always there for me, taught me a lot of great things – not just about the church, but how to be an outstanding person in the community.
“So I just wanted to come and pay my respects to him.”
Brumbaugh was the only individual who gave an interview from among the 15 or so attendees who were asked for comment before or after the funeral.
The cathedral was less than half full. And, other than the presence of about 50 priests, including Altoona-Johnstown Diocese Bishop Mark Bartchak, the service was nondescript.
“I was hoping that it wouldn’t be a big honorary ordeal,” said Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests Midwest Regional Leader Judy Jones, who did not attend the service. “That would really hurt.”
In the 2016 report, the attorney general’s office alleged Adamec created a payout chart that provided guidelines on how to settle abuse cases: $10,000 to $25,000 for above clothing genital fondling, $15,000 to $40,000 for fondling under clothes or masturbation, $25,000 to $75,000 for oral sex, and $50,000 to $175,000 for sodomy or intercourse.
Adamec was also accused of moving priests to new parishes in an attempt to cover up their alleged abuse.
“He was so bad, so bad,” Jones said. “We feel bad for his family, but he should have been defrocked.”
Adamec, at the time of the report, denied the allegations in a written statement issued through a lawyer.
“There is no evidence that Bishop Adamec moved priests from parish to parish to ‘cover up’ abuse allegations or that he failed to take action when an allegation was raised,” the statement read.
The former bishop did not publicly discuss the allegations made against him.