Erie Catholic Diocese Priest Charged with Sexual Abuse of Two Boys

Marco Green
May 9, 2018

Bishop Lawrence Persico says the diocese became aware of the allegations leading to the charges in January. The Attorney General's Office said the diocese knew about the priest's "sexual predator tendencies" since at least 2010 but did nothing to report it to police.

Persico, that became Bishop at 2012, says the 2010 Me Mo mentioned by Shapiro detailed accusations from a third-party they'd witnessed Poulson dressing a young person, who'd refused to talk to researchers and that was simply none of the sufferers that led to the recent charges against Poulson.

The charges, including indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors, were recommended by a statewide investigating grand jury which investigated Poulson to find out the assault occurred when he was an active priest at the Erie diocese.

Prosecutors say the Erie Diocese had received complaints about what they say were Poulson's "sexual predator tendencies" as far back as 2010.

For four decades, Father David Poulson, 64, served as a Catholic priest. Court documents did not list an attorney for Poulson. Three of the counts are felonies.

The assaults took place more than 20 times, including at the rectory where one of the victims served as an altar boy, according to investigators.

Greensburg Diocese spokesman Jerry Zufelt referred questions about the special grand jury to attorney Matthew Haverstick, who said he does not know when the report will be released. The memo also stated Poulson accepted being "aroused" by a minor and that he sent inappropriate texts to a number of young boys.

Investigators said Poulson assaulted the other boy at a remote hunting cabin that he owned in Jefferson County.

"This was the ultimate betrayal and manipulation by Poulson - he used the tools of the priesthood to further his abuse", Attorney General Shapiro said.

"The time of protecting powerful institutions over vulnerable children is over, and anyone who abuses kids will have to answer to my office", Shapiro said.

This situation demonstrates why the revised Policy for the Protection of Children that we unveiled on April 6 calls for us to turn all allegations over to law enforcement for investigation.

Diocese officials interviewed Poulson, who admitted he owned the hunting cabin and that he took an estimated 20 trips there - half of which were with young boys, Shapiro said.

Shapiro then thanked the victims for their bravery and urged any other victims to come forward, and they can do so by calling 888-538-8541. "We will hold him accountable". The diocese, in cooperation with the attorney general and grand jury investigation, then turned over the names of the boys to investigators.

The grand jury's findings paint a disturbing picture of Poulson's alleged behavior, which may have impacted several other children whose cases would have lapsed under the statute of limitations.

"Poulson was a "cool" young priest who befriended them, flirted with them, "wrestled" with them, and "joked" about his sexual preference for young boys". The relationship began by playing chess, then dinners involving alcohol, gifts, cash, and eventually, the victim says, Poulson tried sliding his hand down his trousers to which the victim rolled away.

Meanwhile, Catholic bishops have spent on average $300,000 a year lobbying lawmakers in NY on a variety of topics, including against passage of the Child Victims Act, which would change the statute of limitations on civil and criminal cases of child sexual abuse and allow victims a one-year window to sue over potentially decades-old allegations. They are among the first USA clergy members to be held criminally liable for covering up sexual abuse by other clergy.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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