DA launches investigation into priest

The Blair County district attorney said Saturday that his office has initiated an investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse by a Newry priest, but he would not elaborate.

“Basically, I’ll be discussing it [the allegation] with certain entities,” said District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio.

He said that while there are certain things that must be done, he would not indicate which agency or police department would be called into the investigation of Monsignor Anthony B. Little, 58, the pastor of St. Patrick Parish.

Consiglio reported that he first became aware of the allegation that Little abused a minor in the 1990s when he met Thursday with the Bishop of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Mark L. Bartchak.

The Bishop called Consiglio to report the allegation and Consiglio said he went to see the Bishop.

The Bishop placed Little on leave from active ministry and had him leave the parish on Friday.

According to the Bishop’s release issued Friday night, Father Raymond Crosser, a senior priest, will be the administrator of the parish in Little’s absence.

Consiglio said that the Bartchak handled the allegation the way it should be done.

The way it was handled by the Diocese was “very, very appropriate and very, very proper,” said Consiglio.

The Little incident is the first one reported by Bartchak, who has been Bishop for just over a year, to the Blair County Disrict Attorney.

Consiglio was asked if he has interviewed the alleged victim. He said he did not want to get into those types of specifics.

He was also asked if the DA’s office has a protocol or procedure for handling such reports.

Consiglio said, “Every case is different,” indicating there is no one way to handle reports of child sexual abuse.

Little has been the pastor at St. Patrick for more than a decade, and according to two parishoners, they are shocked by the allegation because Little is well received in the parish.

“I was shocked, totally shocked,” said John Longenecker, who was at the door of the rectory late Saturday morning.

He and his son, Kevin, came to St. Patrick to clean up from Friday night’s fish fry. John Longenecker rapped on the rectory door but received no response, so he called a parishoner who lived in the neighborhood to bring a key to open the nearby elementary school where the fish fry was held.

Longenecker said he thinks Little “is great” and he said, “I can’t believe the charges against him.”

He was skeptical of the accusations.

Longenecker said he was married by Father Francis Luddy, who was sued for child sexual abuse in 1988 and whose civil case became a landmark in sexual abuse litigation. The Diocese ended up paying Luddy’s victim $2.7 million.

The priest at St. Patrick in Newry prior to Little was Father William Rosensteel, who committed suicide in 2007 when he jumped from a 190-foot bridge along Route 219 following revelations of child sexual abuse.

Now comes the Little case. Longenecker said that everybody seems to be out for the money.

His son in a separate conversation called Little a “very nice man,” noting that he gives good sermons.

Kevin said he has been attending St. Patrick since he was 12 years old.

“Everybody who belongs to our church likes him. I never heard anybody say they didn’t like him,” he said.