Our law firm is offering free confidential evaluation of clergy sexual abuse claims involving priests of the Diocese of Erie. We have been handling clergy abuse cases for many years. Contact us today at 954-641-2100 or send an e-mail to [email protected] to find out if you are eligible for compensation.
The Diocese of Erie has been home to some of the most notorious priests alleged to have committed child sexual abuse. Those facts are now coming to light and any victims of abuse by priests may now be able to receive financial compensation for what occurred. Indeed, the Pennsylvania bishops publicly announced that they support an independent compensation fund to support sexual abuse victims.
The civil lawsuits that have been filed against the Diocese of Erie and the extensive Grand Jury Report into the practices of the Diocese of Erie have exposed a culture of sexual abuse, cover-up, and efforts by church to protect the reputation of the Diocese of Erie even if it meant putting children in harms way. As a result of the Grandy Jury Report’s findings at to the Diocese of Erie, Bishop Persico was pressured to finally release the names of more than 60 clergy and laypeople accused of sexual abuse and other misconduct in the Diocese. Most disturbingly, it has been revealed the former Diocese of Erie Bishop Alfred M. Watson failed to stop multiple instances of abuse when they were credibly reported to the Diocese of Erie.
The current Erie Catholic Bishop Lawrence Persico has come out in support of the creation of a Diocesan fund for sexual abuse victims. Although Bishop Persico’s proposal is hailed by some victim advocates, others would like to see the the creation of a two-year window for abuse victims to sue in court no matter what the statute of limitations or how long ago the abuse occurred. The grand jury recommended the creation of the two-year window to allow lawsuits in its 884-page report, released August 14, 2018.
The below list of priests includes some habitual re-offenders and other priests who allegedly committed abuse. In some case, priests were alleged to abuse at multiple parishes and were transferred from place to place where they continued to abuse children:
Ordained in 1978. Laicized, or removed from ministry and later voluntarily resigned from the clergy. Bradford Christian School. List of parish assignments.
Ordained in 1966. Forbidden to function as a priest. Cathedral Prep School. St. Patrick’s and St. Hedwig’s parishes. List of parish assignments
Donald Bolton, CSsR (deceased)
Ordained in 1952.. Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. Forbidden to function as a priest. St. Gregory Thaumaturgus parish in North East, PA. List of parish assignments
Edmund S. Borycz, OFM (deceased)
Order of Franciscans. Forbidden to function as a priest.
Ordained in 1959. Forbidden to function as a priest. List of parish assignments
Laicized. List of parish assignments
Bonaventure Ciufoli (deceased)
Returned to Italy.
Donald Cooper (deceased)
Forbidden to function as a priest. List of parish assignments
Kevin Cray, SDS (deceased)
G. Matthew Daly (deceased)
Assistant Headmaster at Cathedral Prep
David Dobrowolski (deceased)
Dismissed from the clergy. List of parish assignments
YEAR OF BIRTH: Unknown
YEAR OF DEATH: Unknown
06/1976 – 09/1978 – St. Joseph, Oil City
09/1978 – 07/1979 – St Bernard, Bradford
07/1979 – 02/1987 – St. Agatha and St. Bernadette Mission, Saegertown
02/1987 – 01/1988 – Health Leave
01/1988 – 05/1989 – Holy Family Monastery, Erie
01/1988 – 05/1989 – St Patrick, Erie
05/1989 – 12/1989 – Health Leave
12/1989 – 08/2001 – Pleasant Ridge Manor, Girard
06/1992 – 11/1992 – Hamot Hospital, Erie
08/1995 – St Ann, Erie
09/2001 – St Mary’s Asbury Ridge, Erie
Father Chester Gawronski became a priest in the Diocese of Erie in 1976. In August 1986, Bishop Michael Murphy was notified that Gawronski had fondled and masturbated a 13-to-14- year-old boy on multiple occasions from 1976 to 1977 under the pretext of showing the victim how to check for cancer. Complaints continued to be received for decades.
In early 1987, the complaints were commonly made by parents who reported similar conduct with their sons. An internal Diocesan memorandum was obtained by the Grand Jury and indicated that the number of victims could be has high as twenty.
Diocesan administrators, concerned about negative publicity and potential legal liability, attempted to assure the families of the victims that action would be taken. Internally the Diocese worked to compile data on the number of families affected and how to keep the matter secret.
On January 7, 1987, Father Glenn Whitman, head of the Diocese’s Clergy Personnel Office, wrote a letter addressed to a parent of one of Gawronski’s 13-year-old victims. Whitman wrote, among other things, “My only caution to you … is to refrain from probing for any more information about past events as it may raise undue concern and attention on the part of people who aren’t involved.” That same day, Whitman documented the need for “discretion” in another Diocesan communication to an interested party. Among other things, Whitman wrote:
Diocesan records, obtained by the Grand Jury through a subpoena served on September 1, 2016, recorded the ever-growing list of affected and traumatized parishioners. A summary of potential families affected noted that the mother of a group of brothers that were molested continued “to be very angry about this whole thing” and is in conversation with at least one other family on this list. She stated that “going public would be a distinct possibility should (Gawronski) ever be assigned to parish work.” On February 9, 1987, Gawronski provided the Diocese with a list of forty-one possible victims. He confirmed at least twelve children as victims on whom he had performed the “cancer check.”
Additional records, obtained from the secret or confidential archives of the Diocese, noted that, in April 1987, Gawronski freely confessed to numerous instances of sexual abuse. He was sent to Chicago for psychological evaluations but denied any problems with boys. He was placed on a temporary leave of absence. In some instances, entire families of young boys were molested by Gawronski.
Regardless, Gawronski was still permitted to wear the collar of the priesthood as he engaged the public. In addition to this information, more victims reported Gawronski for criminal sexual acts with children to the Diocese in 1988. In 1990, Bishop Donald Trautman took command of the Diocese. Trautman also received additional complaints in 1995 from a victim who had been molested at the age of 15 in 1986. The victim reported he had fallen prey to Gawronski’s “cancer checks.”
By 1996, there was no possible doubt that Gawronski had spent most of his priesthood preying on the vulnerable. However, even as complaints continued, on November 6, 1996, Gawronski was notified that Trautman had approved his request to hear confessions for persons with disabilities. On May 19, 1997, Trautman sent a letter to Gawronski and thanked him for “all that you have done for God’s people during those twenty-one years of ordination. Only the Lord knows the many acts of kindnesses on your part and the deep faith that you have shown. The Lord, who sees in private, will reward.”
For approximately fifteen years, from 1987 to 2002, Murphy and Trautman allowed Gawronski to remain in active ministry by reassigning him multiple times. As late as 2001, Trautman assigned Gawronski to a new five-year term as a chaplain for St. Mary’s Home in Erie.
In January 2002, the Boston Globe broke national news by publishing an article detailing child sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston. Located within records provided by the Diocese was a petition for “withdrawal from priestly ministry” signed by Gawronski with the handwritten notation, “EFFECTIVE FEB. 27, 2002.”
On June 2, 2002, one of Gawronski’s 13-year-old victims wrote a letter to Trautman. Among other things, the victim requested that the Church: 1) stop aiding and abetting priests; 2) ensure collections were not used to compensate priests; 3) publicize the names of pedophile priests; 4) identify any priest who has molested a child; and 5) establish a policy to ensure offending priests were reported to law enforcement. The victim also advised that Trautman had never contacted him since the Erie Times ran an article identifying potential offenders within the Diocese in April 2002. The victim specifically cited that his dealings with his molestation recently resurfaced when learning of Trautman’s “libelous statement that there were no pedophiles in the Erie Diocese.” Trautman responded to this victim by letter dated June 21, 2002. Trautman stated that he was shocked the victim would “go to the press directly rather than to contact me regarding the past” and argued that the victim was 14 years old when the abuse occurred, not 11 as stated in the article. Trautman explained that the Diocese had a “zero level tolerance for any abuse situation”; that he knew of no priest with a pedophile background in any form of ministry; and that he had never transferred an accused priest from parish to parish as had occurred in other dioceses.
On November 12, 2004, Trautman wrote a ten-page letter to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. The letter was accompanied by a twelvepage directory of Gawronski’s victims and crimes. In total, forty-four identified children were identified in the documents. In providing a basis for Gawronski’s removal from the priesthood, Trautman stated:
“Gawronski identified, pursued, groomed, and then abused his victims. The classic use of manipulations of the parents, siblings, and friends of the victims in order to get to those victims or cultivate other potential victims is consistently evident throughout.”
Trautman went on to write:
Trautman’s scorching indictment of Gawronski’s decades of child sexual abuse was necessary to convince Rome to remove Gawronski from ministry. It was also the only full and fair accounting of Gawronski’s crimes that either Trautman or the Diocese has provided to date.
Unfortunately, it was contained within a private letter to Rome rather than through a public acknowledgment to Gawronski’s victims or the public. Additionally, it occurred fifteen years after the Diocese received the first report of child sexual abuse and only occurred after immense external pressure was placed on the Diocese by press accounts and litigation.
Herbert Gloekler (deceased) priest at St. Bibiana in Galeton from 1967-74. He is accused of sexually abusing young women in the 1950s in Erie.
Robert Hannon (deceased)
James Hopkins (deceased)
Laicized. List of parish assignments
Joseph Jerge (deceased)
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1927
YEAR OF DEATH: 2006
ORDINATION: May 3, 1951
5/18/1951 – 6/30/1952 – Parochial Vicar, St. Boniface, Erie, PA
6/30/1952 – 5/23/1959 – Parochial Vicar, St. John the Baptist, Erie, PA
5/23/1959 – 8/29/1964 – Parochial Vicars, St. Joseph, Oil City, PA
8/29/1964 – 6/03/1970 – Pastor, St. Hippolyte, Guys Mills, PA
6/30/1970 – 12/04/1989 – Pastor, St. Callistus, Kane, PA
4/19/1989 – 11/22/1989 – Sick Leave
12/04/1989 – 6/14/1991 – Parochial Vicar, St. John the Evangelist, Girard, PA
6/14/1991 – 9/01/1992 – Parochial Vicar, St. Francis Xavier, McKean, PA
9/01/1992 – 2006 – St. Patrick’s Retirement Resident, Erie, PA
The Diocese of Erie was first made aware of sexual abuse allegations against Joseph W. Jerge in early 1989. On April 19, 1989, he was sent to St. Luke’s Institute for sexual psychological therapy. In the fall of 1989, he was released from St. Luke’s and signed an aftercare contract that restricted his contact and ministry with young boys. He was placed back into ministry at St. John the Evangelist.
On April 10, 1991, Jerge had a meeting with several members of the clergy, including Father Fischer. In this meeting, the support team voiced their concerns about Jerge’s violations of his post-care contract, specifically about his continued contact with young boys. As a result, Bishop Trautman re-assigned Jerge to St. Francis Xavier parish in McKean on June 14, 1991.
At that time Fischer, wrote several letters to the administration at St. Luke’s voicing his concerns that Jerge was failing in his efforts to stay away from the youth of the Diocese. In his letters, Fischer reported that Jerge had admittedly offended upon numerous children and was nevertheless coaching youth basketball, hearing confessions, and ministering at a parish that had a swimming pool. Fischer went on to write that he felt that this swimming pool “will only nourish the sickness.”
In that same month, June 1991, Jerge again agreed to adhere to the conditions set forth in his original post-treatment conditions that restricted his contact with the young men of his parish. This clergy meeting took place in the presence of Father Glenn Whitman, Director of Clergy Personnel, and Father John Kirk.
Jerge’s ministerial timeline places him at two parishes after the Diocese had officially confirmed the existence of several child victims of his sexual abuse and after he had been sent to St. Luke’s for psychological counseling. It is unclear which victims came forward with allegations against Jerge, but one such victim is particularly well-documented by the Diocese.
Victim #1 was a sophomore in high school when Jerge befriended him, took him on trips alone, and fondled him on a number of occasions. Later in Victim #1’s life he would be blackballed from employment and preemptively blocked from any attempt to be admitted to seminary. In 1995, Victim #1 applied for a position as Director of Religious Education at one of the Diocesan schools.
The Grand Jury found documentation in Diocese files that Bishop Trautman personally instructed school administrators not to hire Victim #1, noting in a letter to Father William Kuba that Victim #1 may be homosexual and may have attempted suicide. Also found in Victim #1’s file was a notation that he was living an openly gay lifestyle and going to gay bars. This “File Update” marked Confidential is dated August 23, 1996. The same File Update which accuses Victim #1 of being homosexual concludes with this sentence: “This file update is provided in the event that [Victim #1] would seek admission to the seminary studies here in this Diocese or elsewhere.” This clear evidence that Victim #1 had been blackballed from employment or admission to seminary is contrary to the compassionate image the Church has historically sought to portray. It is also noted that the Diocese paid at least $1,200 of Victim #1’s counselling fees.
Jerge’s abuse of Victim #2 was documented in detail by the Diocese. Victim #2 stated that his sexual abuse by Jerge began in approximately 1981 to 1985, when he was between the ages of thirteen and eighteen at St. Callistus. Victim #2 stated that all sexual assaults by Jerge occurred inside Jerge’s car. He stated that Father Jerge would invite a small group of altar boys to go out with him after finishing their tasks at church. Victim #2 stated that he and three to five other boys would accompany Jerge to a movie or to a restaurant for a meal. Victim #2 said that he was always the last boy in the car to be taken home by Jerge. He stated that Jerge would drive around in his car with him for approximately twenty to thirty minutes. Victim #2 stated that Jerge would place his hand on Victim #2’s crotch area and caress and rub it. Victim #2 explained that Jerge would put his fingers between Victim #2’s button fly and stimulate that area. Victim #2 estimated that Jerge would molest him in the manner described above approximately two to four times a month when he was between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. Victim #2 reported that he remembered an incident when he was in high school where Jerge’s name came up. Victim #2 advised that he was at a party with similar-aged friends and a small group of youths were playing a game of truth or dare. Victim #2 stated that during the game a female classmate asked Victim #2 “Truth or Dare? Has Father Jerge ever touched you? After this remark, Victim #2 wondered if others had also been sexually abused by Father Jerge. Victim #2 eventually entered the priesthood and was ordained.
Forbidden to function as a priest. List of parish assignments Jeselnick erved in the Archdiocese of Denver for nearly seven months from December 1982 to June 1983. He then served at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Colorado Springs as assistant pastor from 1983 to 1985.
Edward Jungquist (deceased)
Thomas Kelley (deceased)
Chaplain at Kennedy Catholic High School
Forbidden to function as a priest. List of parish assignments
Gerard (“Gerry”, “Gerald”) Krebs (deceased)
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1938
YEAR OF DEATH: 2005
ORDINATION: December 18, 1963
7/26/1964 – 6/3/1970 – Secondary Education Venango Christian High School, Oil City,
7/26/1964 – 6/3/1970 – Weekend Assistant, St. Stephen’s, Oil City, PA
6/3/1970 – 9/8/1970 – Parochial Vicar, Our Lady Queen of the Americas, Conneaut
6/3/1970 – 9/8/1970 – Resident, St. Stephen’s Rectory, Oil City, PA
9/8/1970 – 12/6/1978 – Parochial Vicar, Erie, St. John the Baptist
12/6/1978 – 1/27/1983 – Pastor, Holy Cross Church, Brandy Camp, PA
1/27/1983 – 6/30/1990 – Pastor, St. Patrick, Erie, PA
3/1/1990 – 5/4/1990 – Health Leave, Guest House, Rochester, MN
6/30/1990 – 1/6/1992 – Pastor, St. Patrick, Erie, PA
1/6/1992 – 12/31/2003 – Director of RCIA, Diocesan Office, Erie, PA
1/6/1992 – 2/4/1994 – Resident, Blessed Sacrament, Erie, PA
2/4/1994 – 3/27/2004 – Resident, St. Joseph/Bread of Life, Erie, PA
4/10/1996 – 10/1/1996 – Chaplain, Soldiers & Sailors Home
11/17/1996 – 5/8/1997 – Weekend Assistant, St. Patrick, Erie, PA
11/22/1996 – 12/31/2003 – Director of Activities/Coming Millennium, Diocesan Office,
1/1/04 – 5/25/2005 – Retired, Priest Retirement Residence, Erie, PA
Three known victims came forward indicating that they were sexually abused by Father Gerard Krebs. The first victim claimed in a March 19, 2002 e-mail communication to Bishop Donald Trautman that he was sexually abused by Krebs in 1968. At that time Krebs was an English teacher at Venango Christian High School (“VCHS”). Sometime around graduation, Victim #1 learned that he had impregnated his girlfriend. Distraught, he sought out Krebs for counseling and guidance. Krebs stated that he was once a pre-med student and in order to determine whether or not Victim was capable of impregnating a woman Krebs needed to check Victim #1’s prostate. Krebs did so through penetration of Victim #1’s anus with his finger. A second victim alleged that Krebs sexually abused him sometime in the late 1960s at VCHS. In a letter to Father Tom Brown of St. Thomas the Apostle in Corry dated April 6, 2002, a woman stated that her brother was “sexually molested” by Krebs and that she had learned of it through conversation with her brother. She further alleged that Krebs was known to take the victim and other male students to different places and to give them wine.
The third victim stated in an October 20, 2006 e-mail that he attended VCHS from 1964 to 1968. Victim #3, who was Episcopalian, approached Krebs during his junior year about the possibility of becoming Catholic. Victim #3 alleged that Krebs led him through “a series of sexual rituals to both prove my faith and the fact that I was not a homosexual.” Moreover, Victim #3 referenced a 1969 graduate of VCHS who described numerous experiences of the same nature that he and other classmates endured but did not divulge any additional information.
In 2002, following these allegations, Krebs underwent psychological evaluation at St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland. At this time, Krebs expressed acceptance of his homosexuality during his evaluations but stated he could not recall any specific instances in which he had sexually abused young boys. Krebs did, however, indicate that his drinking was so severe at that point in his life that he could not rule out the possibility of it having happened. Krebs did appear to recall Victim #2 and stated that they slept together in the same bed in a hotel room but had had no sexual contact.
The Grand Jury found no documentation indicating that law enforcement was ever notified about any of Krebs interactions with his victims.
Jerome Kucan, OFM (deceased)
Fidelis Lazar, OSB (deceased)
Louis H. Lorei (deceased)
Priest at Our Lady of Peace in Erie.
Richard Lynch (deceased)
Forbidden to function as a priest. Priest at St. Joseph in Warren.
DATE OF BIRTH: 1935
ORDINATION: May 31, 1962
6/09/1962 – 8/29/1968 – Faculty, Venango Christian High. Residence at St. Joseph, Oil City, PA
8/28/1968 – 8/28/1969 – Sp. Ministry, St. Mark’s Seminary, Erie, PA
8/28/1968 – 7/16/1972 – Dean/Collegians, St. Mark’s Seminary, Erie, PA
7/16/1972 – 5/05/1979 – Sp. Ministry, St. Mark’s Seminary, Erie, PA
5/05/1979 – 7/19/1994 – Pastor, St. Joseph, Warren, PA
3/19/1991 – 8/01/1994 – Sp. Ministry, Dean/Warren Co. Deanery, St Joseph, Warren, PA
7/19/1994 – 2/10/1995 – Sick Leave
5/05/1979 – 9/15/1995 – Resided at St. Joseph
9/15/1995 – currently faculties removed
After several years teaching at Venango Christian High School, Reverend Salvatore P. Luzzi was moved to St. Mark’s Seminary, where he filled several roles. Over the course of his 30 year ministry, he was accused of sexual misconduct by eight male victims ranging in age from early teens to early twenties. Some of these victims were groped, inappropriately kissed, hugged, and/or fondled. He also faced allegations of responsibility for the suicide of a former student/victim.
Luzzi worked extensively with young would-be priests at St. Mark’s where he and fellow priest Leon Muroski served as Spiritual Directors to the seminarians. Luzzi’s inappropriate touching and fondling of at least two seminarians prompted the Diocese to settle with those seminarians for large sums of money. The first former Seminarian’s case was settled in civil court for $34,500 and this individual received several thousand dollars over the course of the many years that the Diocese paid for his counseling and medication costs.
Several other former juvenile victims of Luzzi received letters or phone calls of apology from the Diocese. These victims were counseled by the Diocese through correspondence or inperson interviews wherein Luzzi’s behavior was dismissed as “Sal’s way of expressing himself” and his “touching approach” to ministry was attributed to his Italian upbringing.
The Diocese listed several Luzzi victims in its internal reports, but little to no documentation was contained in the files. It was alleged that Luzzi groped the buttocks of one victim in a hardware store in 1998. This individual was 19 at the time of the incident. Luzzi denied the touching and only admitted to patting this individual on the back.
In 1974-1975, Luzzi and Father Leon Muroski were working at Camp Notre Dame in Fairview when a young seminarian named Michael Amy was accused of fondling two juveniles.
These victims reported the incident to the Pennsylvania State Police, the Diocese of Erie, and to their parents. The Diocese representative for this incident at Camp Notre Dame was Father Lawrence Speice. Speice assisted Amy by interceding on Amy’s behalf with the State Police and the boys’ parents. No arrest was made. Luzzi and Muroski dealt with Amy by making him attend counselling and keeping him in seminary. Amy would go on to abuse at least two more juveniles, along with several other unidentified juvenile prostitutes as an ordained priest prior to being laicized.
During Amy’s laicization process, he called Speice, Muroski and Luzzi as his witnesses. Muroski denied knowledge of any wrongdoings by Amy. Speice and Luzzi both admitted some knowledge of Amy’s molestation of children in 1974-1975. Luzzi wrote on Amy’s Witness Statement that he was “amazed that he was made a pastor in a place where something happened before,” and that “there certainly should have been something in his Seminary day files.” Luzzi added, “I personally wondered when these things would resurface.”
In 1994, Bishop Trautman sent both Luzzi and Muroski to St. Luke’s Institute for therapy. The Diocese publicly announced that Luzzi was going on an extended sabbatical for “personal, spiritual and academic growth.” Once Luzzi was discharged, the Bishop welcomed him back into pastoral ministry by letter on February 14, 1995. However, the welcome also came with several conditions and a Penial Precept, a formal notification in the church that restricts ministry. Trautman directed Luzzi to refrain from all contact with youth under 19 years of age and to avoid travel and social interaction with such parishioners. Later that same year, in September 1995, Trautman had Luzzi’s faculties as a priest removed and Luzzi began residing in a private residence, where he remains today.
It was Luzzi’s position that Trautman forced him to retire. It was the position of Trautman and the Diocese that what led to Luzzi’s resignation was the weight of new allegations and the real possibility of widespread publicity. It was found in subpoenaed files that Luzzi’s accusers threatened to take “appropriate steps” if Luzzi was not removed from ministry. This information was found in an internal document written by Monsignor Robert Smith and placed into Luzzi’s file on October 12, 1995. Smith and Trautman informed Luzzi that if he did not retire of his own free will, the Diocese would follow the canonical process specified in church law to remove Luzzi. Luzzi resigned less than 30 days later.
Monsignor Daniel Martin (deceased)
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1917
YEAR OF DEATH: 2006
ORDINATION: November 17, 1943
1943 – 1945 – Parochial Vicar, Sacred Heart, Sharon, PA
1945 – 1962 – Faculty, Erie Cathedral Preparatory High School, Erie, PA
1948 – 1962 – Assistant Headmaster, Erie Cathedral Preparatory, Erie, PA
1950 – 1962 – Chaplain, Mercyhurst College
1962 – 1970 – Pastor, St. Boniface, Kersey, PA
1962 – 1970 – Headmaster, Elk Co. Christian High School, St. Mary’s, PA
1970 – 1974 – Pastor, St. Joseph, Oil City, PA
1974 – 1986 – Pastor, St. George, Erie, PA
1984 – Prelate of Honor, titled Monsignor
1986 – 1987 – Retired, Residence at Mt. Calvary, Erie, PA
1987 – Chaplain, Mercyhurst College for Religious women
2003 – Blessed Sacrament, Residence
Monsignor Daniel Martin was a priest the in the Diocese of Erie for 43-three years who faced two known allegations of sexual abuse. The Grand Jury’s review of his files found very little documented evidence of his abuse of a teenager who was an alter server in his parish. That victim would go on to become a priest himself and appeared in front of the Grand Jury to tell his story. Martin’s second victim was a Seminarian who named Martin, along with Bishop Trautman and Fathers Salvatore Luzzi, Leon Muroski and Thomas Kelley, in a civil suit that was settled by the Diocese for $34,500 on October 3, 1995. This Victim (Victim #2) claimed to have been sexually harassed and assaulted by the priests named in his suit.
Victim #2’s abuse occurred at St. Mark’s Seminary in Erie, amidst what he described as a ‘culture of sexuality’ among the priests. He reported to the Diocese that the priests in the seminary have a ‘fierce competition’ among themselves to sexually prey upon kids who had absentee fathers or children who had poor relationships with their fathers. Victim #2 explained that in the Seminary, the priests who acted as spiritual advisors to the seminarians would engage them in sexual misconduct. He reported that one of his spiritual counsellors, Gene Humenay, was upset when he learned that this type of sexual behavior was going on in the seminary, but Humenay did nothing to stop the abuse. Victim #2 believed the Diocese knew that the priests were sexually abusing the seminarians but did nothing about it. In his lawsuit, he named Bishop Donald Trautman, not as an abuser but as an enabler.
Gene Humenay was subpoenaed into the Grand Jury to answer question regarding his knowledge of clergy sex assault. He had left the priesthood in 1987 to get married. One of Victim #2’s demands of the Diocese when he sued was to have all the priests named in his suit removed from ministry and given professional counselling. The Diocesan records did not specify if Martin was sent for treatment, but it was acknowledged in a letter to Victim #2 from the Diocese that Martin was seen at St. Luke’s Institute in September 1995. This information cannot be corroborated by the documents provided to the Grand Jury.
This investigation found a document dated July 24, 1994 and labeled “confidential memorandum for the file, RE: Daniel Martin.” It documents the interaction between Bishop Trautman, Victim #2, and Daniel Martin. It records Trautman confronting Martin about the
allegations of the sexual abuse of Victim #2. In it, Trautman wrote that Martin offered to donate $3,500 towards Victim #2 receiving proper therapy. Martin also apologized to Trautman for the incident. Trautman accepted Martin’s check and forwarded it on to Victim #2.
The first aforementioned accusation of sexual abuse against Martin was much less welldocumented in the Diocese records and only came to light via the cooperation of another victim. Victim #1 contacted the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s Catholic Church Hotline to report his story. Victim #1 is also an ordained Catholic priest and has served the Diocese of Erie for many years. He was subpoenaed into the Grand Jury to tell his story. Victim #1 testified that Martin was his parish pastor and a role model for him because he had a dysfunctional family and he felt isolated from his friends. He explained that he felt the church and Martin became his ‘surrogate family’. This gave him access to all parts of the rectory. Victim #1 reported that when he would be upset over the troubles of his life, he would seek Martin’s counsel. It is in these moments of weakness and vulnerability that predators look to exploit their victims, and Martin was no different. Victim #1 testified that Martin sexually fondled him on at least sixteen occasions between the ages of sixteen and nineteen. Victim #1 reported to this investigation that Martin abused him three times at St. George, eight times at Mt. Calvary and five times at Mercyhurst College.
Victim #1 testified that Martin was friends with several other priests that were known pedophiles. He said that on a number of occasions, Martin’s friend, Father Gary Ketcham (see Father. Gary Ketcham narrative), invited him to play racquetball or took him to nice dinners. When he did play racquetball with Ketcham, he would always be instructed to bring a towel because Ketcham would insist on taking a shower with Victim #1 and the other boys he took to the racquetball court. Another known pedophile priest with whom Martin would often associate was Father Robert Hannon (see Rev. Robert Hannon narrative). Victim #1 testified that Hannon retired early and relocated to Hawaii. Victim #1 reported that Hannon retired early due to inappropriate behavior with children and he would often return to the Erie area to visit with Martin. Victim #1 told the Grand Jury that Hannon’s way of befriending the altar boys was to hand out cash. Victim #1 testified that he personally experienced Hannon handing out money. He said Hannon would call it “green” and give it to any boy working the rectory. He added that Hannon and Martin were old friends from when they both worked in Oil City.
Victim #1 went on to report that from his personal experience he did not see the problems in the Catholic Church to be one of clergy sex abuse or an issue of gay men. He testified that the real issue is that of power and the ability to force your will over those under you. He informed this investigation that he believes that the Diocese knew full well what Martin was and that he had been preying upon Victim #1 for some time. He said the rumors of his abuse at the hands of Martin were openly talked about with his spiritual advisors while he was in the seminary in 1989-1990.
A review of the subpoenaed files supplied to the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General found little to no mention of Martin’s molestation of Victim #1. What can be determined is that approximately the same time Victim #1 was in seminary openly decrying Martin’s conduct, the Diocese had Martin assigned to Mercyhurst College. The Diocese would later restrict Martin’s ministry at the college to dealings only with the Catholic nuns at the school.
H. Desmond McGee, Jr.
Headmaster of Bradford Central
Joseph F. Meisinger (deceased)
Forbidden to function as a priest.
Edmundus Murphy, SVD
John L. Murray (deceased)
Pleaded no contest in 1985 to charges of fondling a 12-year-old altar boy at St. Matthew-in-Woods.
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1922
ORDINATION: May 15, 1947
5/31/1947 – 5/28/1955 – Sacred Heart, Parochial Vicar with Residence, Sharon, PA
5/28/1955 – 6/11/1960 – St. Paul, Parochial Vicar with Residence, Erie, PA
8/25/1959 – 6/11/1960 – St. Paul, Parochial Vicar with Residence. Special Duties, Part-Time Faculty, Erie Cathedral Preparatory, Erie, PA
6/11/1960 – 8/01/1966 – Special Ministry, Erie Cathedral Preparatory, Erie, PA
8/27/1966 – 1/31/1969 – Special Ministry, DuBois Central Catholic HS, Special Duties, Headmaster, DuBois, PA
6/16/1967 – 10/15/1968 – St. Bernard, Administration with Residence, Falls Creek, PA
10/15/1968 – 5/26/1972 – Health Leave
5/26/1972 – 1/04/1974 – Special Ministry, Vicar Assistant with Residence, Our Lady Queen of the Americas, Conneaut Lake, PA
1/04/1974 – 6/01/1979 – Pastor with Residence, Our Lady Queen of the Americas, Conneaut Lake, PA
6/01/1979 – 10/15/1985 – Pastor with Residence, St. Matthew in the Wood, Erie, PA
10/15/1985 – 6/01/1987 – Sick Leave
6/01/1987 – Restricted, Erie, PA
The Diocese of Erie received reports that Father John L. Murray sexually molested young boys in a church rectory before serving mass, as well as in recreational settings such as the lake shore. A review of his Diocesan file revealed that, as a result, the Diocese paid thousands of dollars in therapy fees and civil settlements. Two of his victims each received monetary settlements in the amount of $25,000 each.
The first allegation of sexual abuse against Murray was made in 1967. In was reported that in the summer of 1966, Murray, while in a social setting with the victim’s family at the shore, allegedly fondled the young boy in the water and on shore. This incident was brought to the attention of the boy’s parents and Bishop John F. Whealon in 1967. There was no indication in the file that law enforcement was notified. Whealon’s personal notes revealed that he confronted Murray with the accusation and spoke with the victim’s father on a number of occasions. Murray partially denied the allegation by telling the Bishop that the victim has “an overactive imagination,” and that any touching was accidental due to normal roughhousing with the boy. The notes further indicated that the victim’s father met with Murray and Murray apologized to him for the incident. The records revealed that Whealon convinced the family that nothing could be done in this case. Whealon wrote that the victim’s mother and father have “no doubt that this priest (Murray) did something wrong, in the water and on the shore.” Whealon recorded the father as saying, “If it was the first time, Father Murray is now so frightened that it will not happen again.”
In April of 1985, Murray was charged by the Pennsylvania State Police with one count each of indecent assault and corruption of minors. He eventually pled guilty to both charges, was sentenced to twelve months’ probation and fined. This incident was the result of Murray sexually molesting a 12-year-old boy who was preparing to serve mass in the church rectory.
One year later, the church paid the victim’s family a settlement in the amount of of $25,000. As a result of Murray’s second instance of child molestation, the Diocese disciplined him by removing his priestly faculties in 1985. While awaiting sentencing on his criminal charges, the Diocese sent Murray to two treatment facilities. After several years of treatment, paid for by the Diocese, Murray was retired and moved to his family home in Philadelphia. As of 2007, he was still receiving money to pay for his therapy.
Finally, in 2016, Bishop Lawrence Persico received the latest complaint against Murray. This incident came to the attention of the Diocese when the victim was visiting the Conneaut Lake area. According to Persico’s handwritten file note, the victim, now 55 years of age, was a 12-year-old boy in 1973. He was cutting grass at Our Lady of the Americas church where Murray was the Pastor. Murray allegedly grabbed the child’s genitals through the boy’s clothes. Persico wrote to the victim on September 15, 2016 and advised him that the Diocese notified the Erie County District Attorney’s Office and reported the incident to Childline. He further advised that Murray was out of ministry, was not permitted to function as a priest and offered to speak with the victim should he have any further questions.
Giles Nealen, OSB (deceased) Monk of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe. List of assignments
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1942
YEAR OF DEATH: Unknown
ORDINATION: May 18, 1968
1966 – Jesuit Missions, Juliaca, Peru
1967 – Migrant Ministry, Erie, PA
6/16/1968 – 9/02/1970 – St. Patrick, Erie, PA
6/16/1968 – 9/02/1970 – Faculty, Cathedral Preparatory, Erie, PA
9/02/1970 – 3/09/1984 – St. Patrick, Erie, PA
8/16/1971 – 1/31/1983 – Chaplain, Soldiers and Sailors Home
3/09/1984 – 8/25/1986 – St. Adalbert, Sharon, PA
8/25/1986 – 11/07/1992 – St. Joseph, Oil City, PA
11/07/1992 – 6/28/1998 – St. George, Erie, PA
6/28/1998 – 12/21/1998 – Sabbatical, American College of Louvain
12/21/1998 – 6/05/1999 – St. Joseph, Sharon, PA
6/06/1999 – 12/31/2007 – Chaplain, FCI McKean, Bradford, PA
1/01/2008 – 8/21/2008 – Sabbatical
8/22/2008 – 8/31/2012 – St. Michael, Emlenton, PA
8/22/2008 – 8/31/2012 – Chaplain, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Clarion, PA
10/21/2016 – 11/04/2016 – Temporary Parochial Administrator, St. Elizabeth Seton, Sun City, AZ
The Diocese of Erie personnel file for Father Jan Olowin contained a document entitled “Summary of Phone Conversation.” It was the memorialization of a telephone conversation that was written by Robert J. Smith, Vicar General, on May 27, 1993. The document recorded the alleged abuse of a victim by Olowin. Victim #1. It is the Diocesan notes regarding a phone call Smith had with Victim #2, who is a victim of clergy sex abuse himself. These notes record some of Victim #2’s abuse and record Victim #2 informing the Diocese of his friend’s (Victim #1) abuse. Victim #2 said he was disillusioned with the Church when Olowin was appointed pastor
of St. George.
Victim #2 explains that Victim #3, who was also a friend of his, was sexually accosted by Olowin while on a trip to Mexico. The document does not record the age of Victim #3, only that he was young at the time of the assault. Victim #2 tells Smith that Victim #3 was able to fight off Olowin’s sexual advances by pushing him away. Sometime later Victim #3 shared the incident with Victim #2, who subsequently shared the story with Smith in 1993. On November 4, 2016, Bishop Lawrence Persico wrote a letter to Olowin, now retired in Peoria, Arizona, indicating that he had learned of an allegation of clerical misconduct made several decades ago against Olowin. Persico’s letter did not mention details, but it referenced a phone call that Persico and Olowin had the day before. The Grand Jury can infer that Persico outlined Olowin’s offences in this call and articulated the reason for the letter in greater detail. This letter officially restricted Olowin from public exercise of all priestly ministry until further notice.
The Grand Jury was unable to determine from the subpoenaed files what prompted Persico to restrict Olowin’s priestly faculties twenty-three years after Olowin’s name was first associated with sexual abuse. In a later production of files to the Grand Jury, a letter from the Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona to Olowin was found. This document was dated November 18, 2016 and was written to Olowin and carbon copied Persico in Erie. It thanked Olowin for his service and informed him that, due to a letter received from Persico, Olowin would be restricted from all ministry until the matter of the alleged abuse was resolved. It is unknown if the investigation of Olowin is continuing or if law enforcement was ever notified.
Andrew Pawlaczyk (deceased)
John Piatkowski (deceased)
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1898
YEAR OF DEATH: 1970
ORDINATION: November 10, 1935
11/11/1935 – 5/21/1948 – St. Stanislaus Koska, Erie/Tyler, PA
5/22/1948 – 11/16/1970 – Assumption, Sykesville, PA
In a letter dated March 16, 1955 and addressed to the Bishop of Erie, a victim reported abuse by Father John A. Piatkowski. He advised that at the age of 12, he became an altar boy.
Growing up, he was taught by his parents and the Catechism that priests were Christ’s representative and would not do anything wrong. During his time as an altar boy, Piatkowski began to kiss the victim and tell him that he loved him. He took the victim for rides and to the movies. It was during this time that Piatkowski would play with the victim’s penis until he had an orgasm. On numerous other occasions, Piatkowski committed similar abuse on the victim in the church basement and in the parish house where Piatkowski lived. The victim related that while he felt that the entire situation did not seem right, he was afraid to tell his parents for fear that they would not have believed him.
The Grand Jury reviewed a letter dated October 29, 1959 authored by “A married and devout Catholic” that was addressed to the Archbishop of Erie, Reverend John Mark Gannon. The letter indicated that the writer was requesting on behalf of the parish in Sykesville that the parish be assigned a new priest. The letter stated that Piatkowski had been molesting little boys, and that the boys were afraid to talk. The letter alleged that Piatkowski made nervous wrecks out of the children and that they were afraid of him. It is unknown to the Grand Jury if this incident was ever referred to law enforcement by the Diocese.
In a report authored by Bishop Donald W. Troutman, he indicated that on December 19, 2008, he met with a victim and his wife at the St. Catherine rectory in DuBois. The victim reported that Piatkowski repeatedly sexually abused him when he was approximately seven or eight years old. The sexual abuse took place in the 1940’s in a small parish in Tyler. Troutman referred the victim to counseling.
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1953
YEAR OF DEATH: Unknown
ORDINATION: June 22, 1979
7/05/1979 – 6/09/1982 – Faculty, Bradford Central Christian High School, Bradford, PA Weekend Education, St. Francis of Assisi, Bradford, PA
6/09/1982 – 8/24/1997 – Faculty, Gannon University
6/01/1991 – 8/24/1997 – Director, Parochial Administrator Gannon University
8/24/1997 – 12/03/1997 – Administrator, St. Francis of Assisi, Clearfield, PA
12/03/1997 – 6/06/2000 – Pastor, St. Agnes, Morrisdale, PA
6/06/2000 – 7/24/2001 – Sp. Ministries, Clarion University/Catholic Chaplain
6/07/2000 – 6/30/2006 – Pastor, St. Michael, Fryburg, PA
8/08/2000 – Chaplain, Dio. Div. of World Apostolate of Fatima
7/01/2006 – 11/08/2010 – Pastor, St Michael (2nd 6 year term), Fryburg, PA
11/08/2010 – 11/08/2016 – Pastor, St. Anthony of Padua
11/08/2010 – 11/08/2016 – Pastor, St. Bernadette, Cambridge Springs, PA
1/13/2012 – 9/11/2014 – Dean, Meadville Deanery, Complete term of Father O’Hern
11/01/2013 – 10/31/2018* – Other, Bishop’s Delegate to Mass in the Extraordinary
11/29/2013 – 11/28/2018* – Other, Diocesan Liaison to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal
9/12/2014 – 9/11/2019* – Dean, Meadville Deanery
9/12/2014 – 9/11/2019* – Diocesan Board, Presbyteral Council, Erie, PA
Poulson, a Catholic priest in the Erie diocese for four decades until earlier this year, was charged earlier this year with indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors. Three of those counts are felonies. The charges were recommended by a statewide investigating grand jury, which found that Poulson sexually assaulted the boys while employed in active ministry as a priest by the Erie diocese.
“Poulson assaulted one of his victims repeatedly in church rectories and in a secluded cabin off the grid in Jefferson County,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “He made that victim go to confession and confess the abuse – to Poulson. This was the ultimate betrayal and manipulation by Poulson. Now, thanks to the work of the grand jury and our prosecutors and agents, we’re holding Poulson accountable for his crimes.”
Poulson served as a priest at St. Michael’s Church in Fryburg, Clarion County, for several years between 2000 and 2010.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Daniel J. Dye. Attorney General Shapiro asked anyone with information about sexual abuse by Poulson or any priest to contact the Office of Attorney General’s Clergy Abuse Hotline at 1-888-538-8541.
“The time of protecting powerful institutions over vulnerable children is over, and anyone who abuses kids will have to answer to my office,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We want to hear from you if you were abused by any priest or clergy member.”
William Presley (deceased)
YEAR OF BIRTH: Unknown
YEAR OF DEATH: Unknown
05/1956 – 06/1965 – St. Cosmas and Damian, Punxsutawney
06/1965 – 08/1970 – Elk County Christian High School, St. Marys
05/1971 – 08/1971 – Immaculate Conception, Brookville
05/1972 – 08/1971 – Our Lady Queen of the Americas, Conneaut Lake
08/1970 – 06/1976 – Leave of Absence, Graduate and Student Counselor, Notre Dame, Indiana
06/1976 – 06/1977 – Leave of Absence, St. Joseph University, Philadelphia
06/1977 – 06/1978 – Leave of Absence, Campus Minister, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland
06/1978 – 08/1981 – St. Therese, Shinglehouse
06/1971 – 08/1981 – Sacred Heart Mission, Genesee
08/1981 – 03/1983 – Leave of Absence, Parish Ministry in Raleigh, North Carolina
03/1983 – 03/1988 – St. Agnes, Morrisdale (three separate assignments)
03/1988 – 04/1990 – Leave of Absence, Outside the Diocese
04/1990 – 07/2000 – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sykesville (three separate assignments)
07/2000 – Retired in Lancaster (Diocese of Harrisburg)
The Diocese of Erie was first apprised of Father William Presley’s sexual abuses as early as November 1987, during his assignment as Pastor of St. Agnes. These sexual abuses, as reported to the Diocese, involved two victims and spanned nearly sixteen years. One of the victims had been abused as recently as 1986; the second victim was abused prior to 1971 when he was a high school student in another parish.
Between February and May 1988, various meetings or discussions were held between Presley and Diocesan officials. Fathers John Rosenhamer, A. Joseph Book, Joseph Bobal, Glen Whitman, John Beal, and Bishop Michael Murphy participated in the review of the complaints.
The Diocese noted that Presley did not directly deny the allegations. However, Diocesan memoranda obtained by the Grand Jury recorded the Diocese’s negative view of the complaining victims. Documents regularly referred to the victims as “troubled” or having psychological “problems.” Indeed, it was noted that one victim may have been the victim of a previous sexual
assault by a family member.
There was a consensus amongst diocesan officials that Presley was extremely violent and predisposed to assaultive behavior. On May 16, 1988, Bobal wrote a letter to Murphy containing his recollection of a meeting with Presley. He confirmed that Presley had given the teenaged female victim a job and had obtained other items for her, including clothing and money. He also noted the possibility that Presley would become violent. The meeting concluded with a request that Presley undergo a psychological evaluation. Presley ultimately refused the evaluation but agreed to see another doctor at the recommendation of the Diocese.
Following an evaluation in April 1990, Murphy placed Presley in a temporary assignment. That assignment was made permanent in June 1990. Shortly thereafter, Trautman allowed Presley to remain in his position as Pastor and Administrator at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Sykesville, Jefferson County. In April 1996, Trautman appointed Presley to a new sixyear term as Administrator of this Church, where Father Presley remained until his retirement in 2000.
In January 2002, an article detailing the practice of reassigning priests accused of sexual abuse of children was published in the Boston Globe. In April 2002, three separate victims notified Trautman of sexual abuse perpetrated upon them by Presley from 1963 to 1974. One of the victims was as young as 13 years old when it occurred. The abuse of these individuals consisted of “choking, slapping, punching, rape, sodomy, fellatio, anal intercourse,” and other acts according to Diocesan records reviewed by the Grand Jury. On April 18, 2002, Trautman contacted Presley by telephone. Trautman recorded that, during that call, Presley admitted the sexual abuse of the victims. Trautman revoked Presley’s priestly faculties later that year.
In April 2003, and in response to media inquiries about Presley, the Diocese of Erie issued a press release stating, among other things, that Presley’s priestly faculties were removed in July 2002 shortly after the allegations prompted the Diocese to conduct an internal investigation. The Diocese stated that Trautman’s understanding of the alleged incidents was that the crimes had occurred 28 years ago during the time of the late Bishop Watson. The Diocese explained that the individual making the allegation was twenty years old at the time and enrolled at a college in another state where the incidents were reported to have occurred. The Diocese told the public that it had “no information to provide on other possible allegations against the priest.”
This press release was false and misleading. Trautman had personal knowledge of at least three victims, one as young as 13, who reported their abuse to him in 2002. Only one victim was an out-of-state college student. Moreover, the Diocese was aware of sexual abuse complaints against Presley as early as 1987 but permitted him to stay in active ministry for another thirteen years. Additionally, Diocesan records showed that Presley was so violent that priests who interacted with him were concerned for their safety.
Additional details on Presley’s case can be found here.
John Schanz (deceased)
Assigned briefly in 1950 to St. Elizabeth in Smethport, then spent his career of over 40 years until retirement at Gannon University teaching theology. He was also an assistant at Holy Cross in Fairview. He is accused in 1969 to 1970 of assaulting at least seven children in Erie.
Charles Sheets, Jr. (deceased)
Dismissed from the clergy. List of parish assignments
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1951
YEAR OF DEATH:
ORDINATION: May 16, 1980
6/051980 – 8/12/1983 – Secondary Education, DuBois C.C. High School, DuBois, PA
6/05/1980 – 8/12/1983 – Weekend Asst. St. Michael, DuBois, PA
8/12/1983 – 6/14/1985 – Secondary Education, Elk Co. Catholic St. Mary’s, PA
8/12/1983 – 6/14/1985 – Resident at Faculty House, Elk Co. Catholic School, St Mary’s, PA
11/15/1984 – 6/14/1985 – Resident at Holy Rosary, Johnsonburg, PA
1/05/1985 – 6/14/1985 – Administrator, St. Benedict, Ridgway, PA
6/14/1985 – 8/07/1989 – Secondary Education, Erie Cathedral Preparatory, Erie, PA
6/14/1985 – 8/07/1989 – Weekend Asst. Holy Trinity, Erie, PA
8/07/1989 – 11/01/1994 – Secondary Education, Bradford Central Christian High School, Bradford, PA
8/07/1989 – 11/19/1990 – Weekend Asst., St. Bernard, Eldred, PA
11/19/1990 – 11/01/1994 – Administrator, St. Bernard, Eldred, PA
11/01/1994 – 11/0319/97 – Administrator, St. Bernard, Eldred, PA
11/01/1994 – 8/01/1995 – Secondary Education, Bradford Central Christian High School, Bradford, PA
8/01/1995 – 12/15/1997 – Sick Leave
1/26/1997 – 6/30/1999 – Administrator, St. Theresa Shinglehouse
11/0319/97 – 7/31/2001 – Pastor with residence, St. Raphael, Eldred, PA
8/01/2001 – 4/01/2011 – Pastor with residence, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Ephrata, PA
8/01/2001 – 4/01/2011 – Pastor, St. Francis of Assisi
4/01/2011 – Leave of Absence/Suspension
Father Samuel B. Slocum testified before the Grand Jury on September 14, 2017, detailing his days as a priest in the Diocese of Erie. In 2012, a jury found him guilty of the crimes of concealment of the whereabouts of a child and corruption of minors.
Slocum testified that in 1980 he had been reported to Monsignor Heberlein by a fellow priest for an alleged inappropriate relationship with a fourteen-year-old girl. Slocum testified that Heberlein and then-Bishop Michael Murphy knew about his relationship with the young girl, but did nothing about it. In this same year, Slocum also recalled having a relationship with a sixteen-year-old boy. He testified that he would not call his relationships with these children inappropriate. He said that he did get some sort of emotional or sexual gratification from relationships with children, however. Slocum testified that while he never touched the girl, he did engage in physical wrestling, tickling and touching of the young boy. Slocum befriended his intended victims by gaining the trust of their parents and then engaging the children in inappropriate relationships or what is now known as “grooming”. Slocum engaged in grooming behavior with four children before he was finally arrested.
When Slocum described his relationships with fourteen-year-old Victim #1 and seventeen-year-old Victim #2, he testified to the Grand Jury that these girls were in love with him and wrote him love letters. When questioned about groping Victim #2’s buttocks and upper thigh, Slocum summed up the touching as accidental in nature. He informed the Grand Jury that to escape the accusation by Victim #2, he enlisted the assistance of a third party to apply pressure to Victim #2 and have her recant her accusation against him. Slocum testified that he had this mutual friend talk to Victim #2’s family because, “I felt like I was saving my neck, to be honest.”
Slocum added that he and Victim #2’s family remain friendly to this day and exchange Christmas cards. Diocesan records showed that Bishop Trautman and the Diocese opened an investigation into the Victim #2 groping incident and quickly closed it in less than two days. Trautman’s handwritten notes in the Slocum–Victim #2 file reads, “Sam Slocum – Denied Categorically All Aspects.”
Slocum testified in the Grand Jury about Victim #3’s case, the fifteen-year-old victim for whom Slocum was eventually convicted of felony and misdemeanor charges relating to grooming behavior. Slocum admitted to buying the friendship of Victim #3 and others with gifts and allowing them to stay at his residence in the rectory, even when their parents forbid it.
Slocum taught Victim #3 how to hide their communications on social media by deleting text and photographs. Some of the texts that Slocum sent to Victim #3 would later be used against him in court and are sexually suggestive in nature. Slocum texted Victim #3, “I always knew there was something special about you, but I never knew what it was, Majic,” and, “I’m trying not to say bad stuff but your [sic] pushing it.”
In Victim #3’s case, Slocum bought him items from Abercrombie and Fitch and would later make Victim #3 negotiate to get them. In one text exchange, Slocum informed Victim #3 that a package has arrived. When Victim #3 texted back asking what it was, Slocum responded that the Abercrombie and Fitch package is now in. Slocum texted, “It’s in my bedroom, it came from the post office today. You can start negotiations anytime…” Slocum claimed that Victim #3 memorized his credit card number and made the purchases himself. Slocum asserted that he never reported this theft to law enforcement or the boy’s parents because he did not want to get the boy in trouble. It also came out in court proceedings that Slocum hid the whereabouts of Victim #3 from his parents and coached Victim #3 to lie to his parents.
This behavior that Slocum exhibited in the aforementioned cases was again apparent in 1995 when the Diocese became aware of another target of Slocum’s grooming. This incident was addressed in a letter dated May 10, 1995, from Monsignor Charles Kaza to Bishop Trautman. In that letter, Kaza outlines Slocum’s “unhealthy relationship” with a high school senior. The letter described how Slocum worked late hours with this student outside the school grounds, offered the student cash, and invited him to drink beer.
This report came from the student’s own mother to Monsignor Kaza at great risk to her employment. This mother was, at the time, a teacher employed by the Diocese. The letter went on to describe how the victim felt uncomfortable with the level of Slocum’s closeness and that Slocum routinely violated his personal space. Slocum denied any physical sexual contact with this student, but admitted that the relationship certainly filled a void in his life.
In an attempt to get Slocum help for his inappropriate behavior toward children, the Diocese sent him to psychotherapy on two occasions. His first stint in therapy occurred in 1991 at the Diocese’s own treatment facility in Erie called the Ecclesiastic Center. There Slocum received treatment that the Diocese called “Growth Counseling,” along with fellow accused pedophiles Rev. Thomas Smith and Rev. Gary Ketchum. Slocum’s second stint at psychotherapy occurred in 1995 at the St. Michael Center in St. Louis, Missouri, which is an inpatient facility. Slocum was sent there eight days after the Monsignor Kaza letter to Trautman was sent regarding the student discussed above. Upon his discharge from the St. Michael Treatment Center in January of 1997, Slocum was placed back into ministry, where he remained until 2011. In 2011, the allegations that led to Slocum’s eventual arrest surfaced and the Diocese placed him on suspension until he was laicized by Rome and removed from ministry. Slocum’s canon law case and Slocum’s conviction were documented in what the Catholic Church called “The Acts of the Case” or “The Acts of Slocum.” In the documents provided to the Grand Jury, nowhere was it found that Trautman informed his superiors in Rome that Slocum had a history dating back to 1980 involving four other victims. Slocum’s dismissal from ministry was based solely on his criminal arrest and the incidents involving Victim #3.
Additionally, no evidence was ever found that the Diocese of Erie had ever notified law enforcement of Slocum’s predatory behavior, nor was there any evidence found that the Diocese notified law enforcement at the time of the Victim #3 investigation that Slocum had a predatory history that dated back 30 years.
Monsignor Thomas Snyderwine
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1943
YEAR OF DEATH:
ORDINATION: May 8, 1968
6/05/1968 – 6/03/1971 – Weekend Asst., St. Michael, DuBois, PA
6/05/1968 – 6/03/1971 – Faculty, DuBois Central Catholic, DuBois, PA
1/01/1970 – 6/01/1970 – Administrator, St. Joseph, DuBois, PA
6/03/1971 – 6/05/1976 – Faculty, Erie Cathedral Preparatory, Erie, PA
6/03/1971 – 5/31/1974 – Weekend Asst., St. Boniface, Erie, PA
5/31/1974 – 6/05/1976 – Weekend Asst., St. Patrick’s School, Erie, PA
6/05/1976 – 9/01/1979 – Parochial Vicar, St. Patrick’s, Erie, PA
9/01/1979 – 8/17/1992 – Weekend Asst., St. George, Erie, PA
9/01/1979 – 8/17/1992 – Higher Education, Gannon University, Erie PA
8/17/1992 – 9/05/1997 – Pastor, St Paul, Erie, PA
9/05/1997 – 8/10/2012 – Pastor, St. Luke’s, Erie, PA
9/01/2009 – 8/10/2014 – Diocesan Presbyterian Council, Erie, PA
8/10/2012 – Retired, Private residence
10/14/2013 – 10/13/2018 – Other. Sr. Priest Advocate
9/12/2014 – 9/11/2019 – Diocesan Board. Presbyterian Council, Erie, PA
Sometime in 1996, a young fifth grade girl came to talk with Sister Steff at St. Boniface school. The child was a student of Steff’s. Steff also served as the principal at the school. The girl approached her with her friends because she had disturbing news to report. The young girl told Steff that her godfather, Monsignor Thomas Snyderwine, had taken a shower with her and touched her in ways that she was uncomfortable with. The child reported that this incident occurred five years prior when she stayed overnight at Snyderwine’s trailer. The girl added that Snyderwine would buy her dresses and shower her with gifts.
Steff took the girl’s information and approached Snyderwine and the girl’s parents with the accusation. The parents confirmed the incident and told Steff that they had become friends with Snyderwine, but felt awkward talking to him about the incident. The parents explained that they had informed their daughter to never be alone with him and expressed their gratitude to Steff if she would talk with Snyderwine for them. When Steff approached Snyderwine with the accusation, she informed him of the incident and threatened to go to Bishop Murphy if this behavior ever happened again. She further admonished Snyderwine by telling him that he had better change his behavior.
This incident resurfaced in 2002 because of the increased scrutiny being cast upon the Catholic church in the United States. On May 2, 2002, Steff wrote Bishop Trautman to inform him of the incident that happened six years earlier. Steff wrote that she notified Trautman because of an article she had read in Time Magazine titled, “What the Nuns Didn’t Know.” Steff also asked Trautman several questions in this letter. She asked Trautman, “Is showering with a young non relative (in this case, a young girl) an act of Pedophile? I’m not sure. Is it normal Action? I don’t think so.” This letter and Trautman’s handwritten notes were discovered in subpoenaed Diocesan files. In his notes, Trautman wrote that he would speak to the Diocesan Review Board on the issue and make a decision on Snyderwine’s future in ministry. The only issue was that Steff refused to give the Bishop and the Review Board the name of the family or the victim. Trautman noted that Steff told him, “she would have to pray and think about that and that she would give me (Trautman) the name only after she spoke with them (victim’s parents).”
In later notes written by Trautman, he documented that the victim was now a freshman in college and the parents (both teachers themselves) did not want to pursue the matter. He also noted that Steff informed him that Snyderwine recently said mass for the family when a death in the family occurred.
Several additional points of interest were found in subpoenaed files, which included Snyderwine’s personnel file. A handwritten note by Trautman indicated the following: “I contacted [the Diocesan lawyer] who said I am not a mandated reporter in this case.” These documents also contained notes that Trautman took while he was talking with Steff. In one such note, Trautman wrote, “Sister feels the matter is over with and priest deserves a second chance.”
Dismissed from the clergy.
YEAR OF BIRTH: Unknown
YEAR OF DEATH: Unknown
06/16/1967 – 08/15/1967 Our Lady of Peace, Erie
09/15/1967 – 06/03/1970 Sacred Heart, Erie
06/03/1970 – 02/12/1971 St. Patrick, Franklin
02/12/1971 – 07/16/1972 Notre Dame, Hermitage
07/16/1972 – 06/23/1978 St John the Baptist, Erie
06/23/1978 – 06/01/1981 St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Punxsutawney
06/01/1981 – 10/23/1984 St. Mary of the Assumption, Frenchville
02/01/1984 – 10/01/1984 Health Leave
03/08/1984 – 03/08/1989 Presbyterian Council, Erie
10/23/1984 – 02/05/1985 St. Joseph, DuBois
02/05/1985 – 03/12/1985 St. Hippolyte, Guys Mills
08/08/1985 – 09/16/1985 St. Joseph, Mt. Jewett
09/16/1985 – 12/12/1986 St. Teresa, Union City
12/12/1986 – 04/22/1987 Health Leave, Girard, Ecclesia Center
04/22/1987 – 11/30/1987 Health Leave, Suitland, Maryland, St. Luke’s Institute
12/01/1987 – 09/01/1992 St. Joseph, Warren
09/01/1992 – 05/01/1994 Holy Rosary, Erie
05/01/1994 – Pleasant Ridge Manor, East Mercy Motherhouse
05/01/1994 – Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse, Erie
05/01/1994 – St. Patrick’s, Erie, St. Hedwig Cluster
Father Thomas Smith was ordained in 1967. In 1981 he was assigned to Saint Mary of the Assumption. Bishop Michael Murphy was first told of child sexual abuse perpetrated by Smith against a 17-year-old boy in January 1984 while at Saint Mary’s. Smith resigned on January 20, 1984.
From February 1984 to October 1984, Smith was placed on “health leave.” In reality, he was in residential psychological therapy. In October, Smith was released and reassigned by Murphy to Saint Joseph’s in DuBois, Pennsylvania until February 1985. In February 1985, Smith was transferred to Saint Hippolyte in Guys Mills, Pennsylvania for approximately one month.
From March 1985 to August 1985, Murphy sent Smith to residential psychological therapy once again. Official Diocesan records obtained by the Grand Jury show this was designated as a leave of absence. Upon his release, Smith was sent to Saint Joseph’s in Mount Jewett in August 1985.
After about one month at Saint Joseph’s, Smith was transferred to Saint Teresa in Union City, Pennsylvania where he remained for approximately 10 months. In spite of Smith’s history of child abuse, and his need for continued treatment, Murphy continued to permit Smith’s contact with children. While at St. Teresa’s, Smith sent a letter to Murphy describing his gifts and accomplishments in “working with young people.”
In December 1986, Smith was placed on a leave of absence yet again. This leave of absence continued for almost a year while Smith was returned to residential psychological therapy.
In January 1987, Diocesan records indicated that the treatment facility informed Murphy that Smith suffered from a “driven, compulsive, and long standing” obsession with sexually assaulting children. The facility warned that since his first treatment in 1984, Smith had not stopped sexually assaulting children and that interdiction was needed.
These secret Diocesan records obtained by the Grand Jury pursuant to a subpoena showed that, while in treatment, Smith admitted to sexually molesting at least fifteen children. Smith stated that all of his victims were boys, some as young as seven. Smith had raped them anally and orally. This information was provided to Murphy in November 1987. That same month, Smith was discharged from the facility.
In spite of Smith’s confession to sexually violating at least fifteen prepubescent boys, Murphy assigned Smith to the parish of Saint Joseph’s in Warren on December 7, 1987. Approximately three months later, in March 1988, Father Glenn Whitman wrote a letter to Smith and advised him of recent conduct that placed him in violation of his aftercare agreement with St. Luke’s Institute. Regardless, Smith continued in ministry at Saint Joseph’s with the approval of Murphy, and, beginning in 1990, Trautman.
On July 25, 1990, Whitman wrote a memo to Trautman and noted two known parishes affected by Smith’s abuse. He also wrote that “The number of victims is not clearly known.” The same day, Trautman wrote his own memo regarding Smith. In this document, Trautman wrote that he had met with Smith about his problems and that Smith was a person of “candor and sincerity.” Trautman noted that after another year and a half he would consider a new assignment for Smith because he wanted Smith to complete his aftercare and was fearful of future litigation.
A little over a year after Smith was transferred to Holy Rosary, Trautman received a letter. Dated September 20, 1993, the letter was from the parents of one of Smith’s victims. They described the abuse suffered by their son when he was only nine years old. Trautman wrote to St.
Luke’s Institute, one of Smith’s treatment providers, and requested information as to the future ministry of Smith. Among other things, Trautman noted that he was “worried about appearances” and that “Father Smith does participate in the Isaiah 43 Program which takes him outside of the Diocese. I have no supervision of his activity away from the Diocese; it is an act of trust in him.”
Trautman explained his sudden interest in Smith’s activities, stating, “The mother of this individual has raised concerns about Father Smith’s involvement in Isaiah 43 since there are youth present for this type of retreat.”
St. Luke’s Institute responded on December 28, 1993. Trautman was informed that Smith had failed to report his involvement with the Isaiah 43 program as part of his continued aftercare.
Trautman sent a letter to Smith and informed him that his duties at Holy Rosary would be altered. However, Trautman permitted Smith to remain in the Isaiah 43 program until he completed his duties there in March 1994.
The church bulletin for the Holy Rosary Parish, January 1994, announced the assignment of Father Thomas Smith, Parochial Vicar, to several chaplaincy positions in the Erie area beginning at the end of March 1994 and noted that Smith would remain in residence at Holy Rosary with the title of Resident and Weekend Assistant. This assignment permitted Smith to roam freely about the Diocese, serving as a chaplain with all the authority and power of the priesthood.
Moreover, he continued to be a friendly face in residence at the parish and a weekend assistant. Nowhere in the bulletin was it indicated that Trautman notified the parishioners that Smith had been in treatment since 1984 due to sexually abusing children, nor was it noted that Smith admitted to such conduct with as many as fifteen boys in 1987. Nowhere did it warn that the Diocese was aware that he had re-offended and that the offenses included anal and oral sex with prepubescent boys. These warnings were conspicuously absent because Trautman failed to warn his own parishioners of the danger Smith posed to their children.
Under public pressure, Trautman submitted a formal request to the Vatican on November 10, 2004, and requested the laicization of Smith. Now that Trautman needed a basis to remove Smith from the priesthood he acted with candor. Contrary to nearly every one of Trautman’s previous statements regarding Smith, Trautman now disclosed his knowledge to the Vatican in a confidential letter. Trautman admitted that the Diocese of Erie had been aware of Smith’s abuses since at least 1987. Trautman disclosed that Smith abused boys between 7 and 12 years of age.
He described Smith’s acts as chilling and noted that Smith used physical force to bring about the offenses and threats to secure the secrecy of his crimes. Trautman wrote that Smith invoked the name of God to justify his actions against his victims while using their faith and the priesthood to manipulate them and secure their silence. Trautman noted that, even after Smith was told to avoid any and all occasions that would place him in the company of minors, he continued to do so in a public manner. For example, he was photographed assisting high school students in the collection of food for the poor and the photograph was published in the local newspaper. Trautman summarized Smith’s worldview and stated that he saw his victims as objects rather than people. The Vatican finally acted in 2006 and removed Smith from the priesthood. Smith’s former flock was never told the reason for his removal. On August 3, 2006, Trautman directed the pastor of St. Hippolyte to make the following notation in the record of the parish with respect to Smith: “Dismissed from the clerical state on June 10, 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI. Nothing else need be noted.”
Additional details on Smith’s case can be found here.
Forbidden to function as a priest. List of parish assignments
John (Jack) Tome
Forbidden to function as a priest
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing sexual abuse victims of Catholic priests and other clergy of the Diocese of Erie. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abuse by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office. Although many years have passed, people who have been sexually abused by priests of the Diocese of Erie can submit a claim for compensation. Contact attorney Adam Horowitz at 954-641-2100 or [email protected] to find out how to submit your claim today.