Advocacy group hosts protest outside diocese

HOLLIDAYSBURG -- Exactly one week after a gut-wrenching grand jury report that detailed decades of sexual abuse and a cover-up within the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, a group rallies to support victims.

Clutching photos of innocent children, a small group rallied outside the diocese's administration center in Hollidaysburg asking for change.

"This biggest issue is the cover-up and that needs to get stopped in order for kids to get help," Judy Jones, SNAP's Midwest associate director said.

The young faces are on photos are important. They are the faces of survivors at the age they were abused. Those in the photos allow SNAP, the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, show their faces and to tell their story about sexual abuse at the hands of church leaders. For protester Pam Erdely this mission is personal.

"I was sexual abused by a nun in my high school in 1972," Erdely said.

Erdely made the two-hour drive from Pittsburgh to stand on this lawn to stand up for what she believes in.

"Abuse is like a knife in your heart and a bullet in your brain. It is very dark and depressing. My main message today is, I just want to tell victims there is a light at the end of the tunnel," Erdely said.

Also at the protest, a Blair County woman, who wanted to make her voice heard. She's not a survivor but she's standing united with survivors and victims.

"I am a disenchanted Catholic. These grand jury reports are there in black and white and we need to support these victims," said Rosalind Merritts from Hollidaysburg.

The diocese was aware of the protest and acknowledged it Tuesday.

"We understand the pain they are going through," said Diocese spokesperson Tony DeGol.

The diocese said it remains committed to protecting children from abuse.

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