Fr. Robert F. Bower – Diocese of Erie

by | Mar 26, 2024 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Father Robert F. Bower

Diocese of Erie

Robert Bower Horowitz Law


Ordained: 1959

Placed on Leave: 1999

Resigned: 2002

Died: 2020

Assignment History

  • 1959-1964: Gannon College and Congregation of the Divine Spirit (Erie, PA)
  • 1964-1992: Our Lady of the Lake and Edinboro State College (Edinboro, PA)
  • 1992-1999: St. Anthony’s (Cambridge Springs, PA)

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Fr. Robert F. Bower:

Fr. Robert F. Bower was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Erie in 1959 and worked in multiple parishes during his 40-year career. According to Bishop Accountability, in 1981, Bower was found to have collected child pornography photographs. Seventh-grade children found these images in Bower’s office while they served as janitors at the Edinboro University Newman Center. One of these children, now an adult, testified to the images before the PA Grand Jury.

The witness testified that he and his friends found several photographs and pamphlets in Bower’s office depicting children having sex with adults. He testified that he told his mother about it. The boy’s mother, who was also the secretary at the Newman Center in Edinboro, said she was fired two days later after reporting that Bower was receiving gay pornography in the mail.

Father Bower’s Arrest

In March 1999, Bowers was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography. Police were alerted by a computer repair shop employee who discovered them while working on Bower’s computer. The pornography was allegedly downloaded between June 1996 and December 1998 and included images of a man sodomizing a five-year-old boy. The diocese placed Bower on leave, sent to counseling, and then allowed limited ministry during the investigation. Bishop Trautman said he believed Bower’s explanation that he had received the images accidentally; state police said that Bower admitted to obtaining them. The charges were dropped in 2001 on a technicality. Bower resumed full ministry at the Edinboro Newman Center and as a supply priest for the diocese.

In April 2002, after the Erie Times-News published a report about his 1999 arrest, Bower resigned. The article states that in 1982, the former secretary did report Bower in 1981 and was fired two days later without reason. After 17 years of harboring her pain, the former secretary and two of her coworkers filed a defamation lawsuit against the diocese, Bishops Trautman and Murphy, in May 2003. The case was dismissed the same year.

Bower’s name was included on the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and the diocese’s public disclosure list of those who were credibly accused of actions that disqualify and prohibit them from working or volunteering with children or youth in any Diocese of Erie parish, school, agency, institution or any other Catholic entity located within the Diocese of Erie. It noted that Bower was ‘forbidden to function as a priest.’

The Grand Jury found the testimony of the witnesses to be credible. It was Bower’s own testimony, however, that most disturbed the Grand Jury. When the attorney for the Commonwealth asked Bower if he had ever had sexual contact with a child under the age of eighteen. Bower answered, “What am I supposed to say?” When the prosecutor persisted, Bower added, “I’ll go to jail.”

Father Bower died in 2020.

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.