The tragic story of the Fortney sisters who were preyed upon by the same priest, at times even in front of their parents
The incident turns even more harrowing as one of them claimed that his despicable actions began when she was a toddler.
In a disgusting turn of events, four Pennsylvania sisters have come forward claiming that they were all sexually abused by the same Catholic priest. In an even more harrowing turn of events, one of them claimed that his despicable actions began when she was a toddler.
The girls in question - aka The Fortney sisters - named Patty, Lara, Teresa, Carolyn, claimed that they were victimized by the priest in the central Pennsylvania town of Enhaut. The abuse had begun in the early 1980s, and per Carolyn's recount of the horrors, she wasn't even two when it began with her. “I didn’t realize it until I was 12,” she told the CBS Evening News, in an interview airing Thursday night. “I was watching a movie of a priest molesting altar boys and that’s kind of the day that I put it together.”
Just last month, a Pennsylvania grand jury documented cases of more than 1,000 kids - all of whom were abused by more than 300 priests. As for the Fortney sisters, in their case, they had grown up idolizing the late Rev. Augustine Giella, and in their eyes, his kindness wasn't anything bad. “He would give us candy. He would take us out and just constantly giving, giving. Gave us stuff, bought us clothes, bought us toys. Anything we wanted,” said Teresa Fortney-Miller.
Patty Fortney-Julius claimed to be only 13 when Giella molested her – that too in front of her own sisters. “He was constantly hugging me in front of them, kissing me in front of them, trying to put his tongue in your mouth. He needed to know my cup size. I would continually remind myself, ‘He’s my priest. He’s the mediator between God and man. This is OK,’” said Fortney-Julius.
But the sisters weren't the only disgusting levels he would stoop to when it came to having an audience. He did his harrowing abuse in front of their parents too. “I mean, even at our kitchen table things happened in front of my parents’ face that they couldn’t see,” said Lara Fortney-McKeever.
As per Patty, Giella retired in 1989, and that was when he was found to own pornographic pictures – including nude photos of her sister Carolyn too. Later on, he was arrested and charged with possession of child porn and sexual assault. His death happened in 1993 while he was 72 and awaiting trial.
As of now, the sisters hope their harrowing tale will inspire other abuse victims to come forward too. “For a long time, we just – we – it’s not that we weren’t close. We just didn’t know each other,” said Carolyn. “There’s always this big elephant in the room when we were together – because we – you know, there was so much going on that we didn’t want to talk about it.”
The Diocese of Harrisburg shared their apologies and prayers to the family, through CBS News. However, the sisters, who left the Catholic Church eventually, never received a direct apology from the archdiocese.