Fr. Donald Bolton – Diocese of Erie

On Behalf of | May 5, 2020 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Father Donald Bolton  

Diocese of Erie

Ordained: 1952

Died: 2006

Assigned as follows:

  • 1953-1954: Mount St. Alphonsus (Esopus, NY) 
  • 1955-1959: Bela Vista (Mato Grosso, Brazil) 
  • 1960-1962: Campo Grande (Mato Grosso, Brazil) 
  • 1963-1967: Bela Vista (Mato Grosso, Brazil) 
  • 1968-1969: Monte Alegre (Parana, Brazil) 
  • 1970: Rocio (Parana, Brazi)l 
  • 1971-1974: Notre Dame Retreat House (Canandaigua, NY) 
  • 1975-1984: St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (North East, PA)
  • 1985-1987: Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Brooklyn, NY)
  • 1988-1990: Holy Family Retreat House (Hampton, VA)
  • 1990-2003: St. Alphonsus Villa-Redemptorist Fathers and Brother (New Smyrna Beach, FL) 
  • 2004-2006: St. John Neumann Residence (Saratoga Springs, NY) 

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Fr. Donald Bolton:

Fr. Donald Bolton was ordained a Redemptorist priest in 1952, who served in the Diocese of Erie. He worked in Brazil for many years, returning to the U.S. in 1970 to a Redemptorist retreat house in Canandaigua NY.  According to media reports, he was accused of sexually abusing a 7-year-old girl over a two-year period in the late 1970s, while serving at St. Gregory Thaumaturgus in North East, Pennsylvania. The girl’s parents reported the abuse to the Redemptorists, who reportedly promised the parents that Father Bolton would not be permitted to work with children. 

In 1986, the parents reportedly learned that Donald Bolton was reassigned to teach at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, New York, and reported Father Bolton to the police. In November 1986, he was charged with one count each of indecent assault and corruption of minors. He pleaded guilty and in February 1987, he was sentenced to three years’ probation. He entered a treatment program and spent those three years at a Hampton VA retreat house. Arrest records also noted that several other girls were molested as well, but the statute of limitations had already expired, prohibiting further prosecution.

One of Father Bolton’s victims later filed a lawsuit and received a settlement of $100,000. Her abuse began in 1976 when she was seven years old and continued until 1980 when she was eleven. It started when Father Bolton came to her house to console her family over the death of a grandparent. She reported that Father Bolton held her on his lap and rubbed her back, legs, bottom, and rear. In 1977, when she was eight and practicing to make her First Holy Communion at St. Gregory, Father Bolton entered her side of the confession booth, slid his hands up her dress and pulled her panties down. He fondled her and rubbed his penis against her. He told her not to tell anyone because no one would believe a child’s word against his word. She said this type of abuse occurred for nine months, at least every other week. 

Beginning in 1977 and continuing into 1978, Father Bolton reportedly took the victim and her five friends to the Peak ‘N Peak ski resort in New York on several occasions. Father Bolton assaulted her in the front seat as he drove. She described how he would rub her genitals and poke her with his finger as though he was trying to put a hole in her pants, causing physical pain. She said that happened at least twice when she was eight or nine years old.

In 1978 and 1979, the victim attended classes at St. Gregory, and reported that every other week, Father Bolton would have the nuns pull her out of class and send her to his bedroom in the rectory to help him with assignments. He would take off her pants and put her on his lap in a position that her back was to him. Father Bolton would rub his penis back and forth on her buttocks and vagina while he moaned and groaned. He told her that he was preparing her for womanhood, and often had his hand and fingers inside her vagina. When he came close to ejaculation he would move her slightly forward with his hand inside her vagina being careful not to ejaculate on her. 

In 1980, when the victim was eleven, her parents reportedly rented a cottage in a NY resort town and invited Father Bolton along for the family vacation. One day Father Bolton found her alone in her bedroom, closed the door, pulled off her bathing suit and turned her around. He began to masturbate himself while inserting his fingers into her vagina far enough inside her to hurt her. The assault only stopped when he thought he was going to be caught by a someone passing by. Father Bolton told her to be quiet about the abuse because she was a lying child and nobody would believe a lying child over a man of God’s word. 

In 1993, the victim sought counseling. The Redemptorists Order paid $50,000 and the Diocese of Erie’s insurance carrier paid the balance of her counseling fees. She reported that she never witnessed Father Bolton assault any of her friends, but believes they were also abused in the same way she was. 

According to Diocesan records, the complainant in Bolton’s 1987 conviction was one of her friends. Other victims of Father Bolton came forward years later and were childhood friends of the girl. One victim was about the same age, between seven and eleven years old, when Father Bolton preyed upon her. She was offered assistance with counseling.  In another file, the mother of five children alleged that Father Bolton may have sexually assaulted four of them. The family was also offered counseling assistance. 

In 2001, another victim reported that Father Bolton sexually assaulted him. At the time, he was a fourth grade boy who was abused from 1976-1977.  The victim explained that Father Bolton “Wanted me to do things to him.” He implied that these things that Father Bolton suggested were sexual and that Father Bolton asked this victim to touch him. He also reported that one day when he opened Father Bolton’s door without knocking, he saw Father Bolton with a young girl whose tights were down around her ankles. She was crying and Father Bolton yelled at him, “What the hell are you doing here?”  

Ultimately, the Diocese of Erie returned Donald Bolton to the Redemptorists. His status as a priest, and whether he had access to children from 1987 until his death in October 2006 are unknown.

In July 2018, Father Bolton’s name was included on a list of deceased clergy credibly accused of sex abuse of minors and “Forbidden to function as a priest.” He was also named publicly as accused in the PA Grand Jury report.

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.

Contact us at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today.