Father David Poulson
Diocese of Erie
Removed from ministry: 2018
Assigned as follows:
- 1979-1982 Bradford Central Christian H.S. (Bradford, PA)
- 1979-1982 St. Francis of Assisi (Bradford, PA)
- 1982-1997 Gannon University (Erie, PA)
- 1997 St. Francis of Assisi (Clearfield, PA)
- 1997-2000 St. Agnes (Morrisdale, PA)
- 2000-2001 Clarion University (Clarion, PA)
- 2000-2010 St. Michael (Fryburg, PA)
- 2010-2016 St. Anthony of Padua (Cambridge Springs, PA)
- 2010-2016 St. Bernadette (Cambridge Springs, PA)
- 2012-2018 Dean, Meadville Deanery
- 2013-2018 Diocesan Chancery Appointments
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father David Poulson:
According to media reports, in 2018, Fr. David Poulson’s name was included on the Diocese of Erie list of clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse. He was also named publicly as accused in the 2018 PA Grand Jury report. According to an internal memo from 2010, the Diocese of Erie received complaints that Poulson was having inappropriate contact with minors. The Chancery learned that he was sending texts to underage boys that the later admitted were “suggestive to sexual advances.” According to the grand jury report, he also admitted to tutoring a boy and becoming sexually aroused by the boy. Bishop Trautmann’s response was to “admonish” Poulson to stop his behavior. He remained in ministry.
In January 2018, the Diocese of Erie received information that a soldier stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, disclosed to the chaplain there that he was sexually abused by Father David Poulson as a minor child.
The soldier was later interviewed for the grand jury investigation. He told Pennsylvania Attorney General investigators that Poulson molested him from ages 8-16 (2002-2010). He also made the boy confess the sexual acts to him, reinforcing the idea that the boy was the sinner, not the priest, so that the boy would keep the secret. The man said he was also abused regularly in the rectories at St. Michael and St. Anthony, often after he served mass as an altar boy.
When confronted, Poulson admitted that he co-owned a cabin and woodland property with a friend, and that he made approximately 20 trips to the cabin in the time that he has owned it. At least half of the time, he brought underage boys with him. According to the testimony of the co-owner, a Pennsylvania State Police Sergeant, Poulson often brought boys from his parishes to the cabin. He also testified that Poulson once told the sergeant that he wanted the property “relinquished” to the police officer’s family in the event that Poulson was ever accused of molesting altar boys.
According to the grand jury report, Poulson also admitted a sexual attraction to young men under the age of 18. He also provided the names of six boys that he brought to the cabin, and all of them were interviewed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, who were interviewed by the AG’s Office as well.
Victim 2 told the grand jury that he was abused by Poulson at the camp starting at age 15 (2003) and that it went on until he was 18 (2006).
Nine other men testified to the grand jury that they had contact with Poulson as minors that included flirting and a perverted form of “wrestling.” One man said Poulson joked with him about his (Poulson’s) sexual attraction to young boys. All of them said that the activity Poulson engaged in the most at the cabin (besides molestation) was watching DVDs on his laptop. He was neither a hunter nor an outdoorsman, so owning a cabin seemed to be a strange choice.
Another man testified that he was groomed by Poulson in 1979, shortly after Poulson became a priest. They often spent time together, and Poulson began “courting” the boy, taking him to dinner and showering him with gifts. He often engaged the boy in horseplay and wrestling, and, at least once, the priest had an erection.
Poulson was suspended from ministry in February 2018 after the Diocese conducted a preliminary investigation into Victim 1’s allegations and found them credible.
In May 2018, Poulson was arrested for sexually abusing the two boys (now adults) who testified before the grand jury. In a rare turn of events, the statute of limitations had not expired on their abuse claims.
Poulson later pleaded guilty to corruption of minors and child endangerment. On January 11, 2019, he was sentenced to at least 30 months, and up to 14 years, in prison. According to the Diocese of Erie, Poulson has agreed to seek laicization (removal from the priesthood) as part of his plea deal.
In March 2019, the Diocese of Erie announced that David Poulson has been laicized by the Vatican, meaning that he has been formally removed from the priesthood.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Erie. 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 Erie may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so please do not delay in reaching out to us.