Father David Soderlund
Diocese of Allentown
Removed from ministry: 1989
Assigned as follows:
- 1965-1966: St. Peter (Coplay, PA)
- 1966-1971: Sacred Heart (West Reading, PA)
- 1971-1973: St. Catherine of Siena (Reading, PA)
- 1971-1978: Holy Name High School (Reading, PA)
- 1971-1978: Adult Religious Education (Berks County)
- 1973-1974: St. John the Baptist (Shillington, PA)
- 1974-1978: St. Benedict (Reading, PA)
- 1978-1980: St. Joseph (Summit Hill, PA)
- 1980: Sick Leave (St. John Vianney Hospital)
- 1980-1981: Our Lady of Hungary (Northampton, PA)
- 1981: St. Catherine of Siena (Reading, PA)
- 1982-1986: Unknown
- 1986-1989: Good Samaritan Hospital (Pottsville, PA)
- 1989: Faculties Withdrawn/Administrative Leave
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Fr. David Soderlund:
THE FIRST THREE BOYS
Fr. David Soderlund was ordained a priest in 1965, who served in multiple parishes in the Diocese of Allentown. According to the the 2018 PA Grand Jury report, the Diocese of Allentown received three separate complaints about David Soderlund’s misconduct with children in 1980. The allegations included three different boys, aged 12 to 13, according to the grand jury’s summary of documents reviewed. As part of the investigation, Diocese of Allentown officials reviewed several photo albums containing photos of Soderlund engaging in sexual activity with the boys. After several months of investigation, Soderlund admitted that he engaged in sexual activity with the three boys.
According to the grand jury report, Soderlund often and regularly abused boys at a trailer he kept near the Appalachian Trial Sites, and that he threatened to kill or otherwise harm at least one of the boys if he did not submit to the sexual contact. Soderlund was removed from ministry and sent to St. John Vianney, a notorious treatment facility used by the Diocese of Allentown to treat pedophile priests. His whereabouts for the next two years (including after he left the treatment facility) are not listed in the grand jury report.
The grand jury report also summarizes the Diocese of Allentown’s conversations with local law enforcement in 1980: “…the prosecutor had assured him that if the parents would not make an issue of the matter, he would not prosecute. The prosecutor made it clear that he understood Father Soderlund would no longer be stationed in Carbon County.” According to another memo, the prosecutor said of the pornographic photos of the boy, “the Diocese should retain these photographs for a reasonable period of time. [The prosecutor] did not want to view any of the commercially produced pornographic material and stated [the Diocese of Allentown] could destroy it.”
FOLLOWING 60 DAYS OF SEX OFFENDER TREATMENT, SODERLUND RETURNS TO MINSTRY TO ABUSE AGAIN
After two months at St. John Vianney for treatment, Soderlund was reassigned to ministry in the Diocese of Allentown with the full knowledge and permission of the Vatican. Involving the Vatican in such decisions is an unusual step, and no explanation is provided by the grand jury as to why the Diocese of Allentown elected to involve the higher ranks of Catholic leadership.
Not long after his return to ministry, “Diocesan records indicated that at this time Soderlund began to act out sexually with a young boy.” Once again, Soderlund was removed from ministry temporarily, only to be returned to a new assignment.
In 1987, a Good Samaritan Hospital Administrator contacted the Diocese of Allentown to report concerns about how much time Soderlund was spending with an 8 year old boy. The hospital wanted him fired immediately. According to documents reviewed by the grand jury, the Diocese of Allentown’s attorneys suggested that Soderlund simply be moved to a new hospital where he could stay busier and avoid temptation. The Diocese had a bit of a quandary. As pointed out by Msgr. Mutone in an internal memo: “If we do manage to place Soderlund after being fired by Good Samaritan we will have an even harder time convincing the others we have no place for them,” referring to other accused priests. Soderlund was finally placed on administrative leave in February 1989 – almost two years after Good Samaritan asked for him to be fired.
SODERLUND CLAIMS EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION AFTER HIS REMOVAL
Soderlund later sued the Diocese of Allentown multiple times for violation of his civil rights and discrimination protections, alleging that to fire him (or place him on leave) for a sexual addiction was a violation of protections for disabled persons.
THE LONG OVERDUE POLICE REPORT AND CONVICTION OF SODERLUND
In 2009, David Soderlund was arrested and convicted of sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography in Dubois, Wyoming. He is a registered sex offender in Wyoming and is believed to be residing in the Dubois area.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Allentown. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Allentown may have legal options against the Diocese of Allentown.