Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison
By Charlotte Eby
DES MOINES — A Catholic priest found with child pornography on his Davenport Diocese-owned computer was sentenced Thursday to a year in federal prison over appeals that he has made progress via therapy with his addiction to pornographic materials.
The Rev. Richard Poster, 38, pleaded guilty in August to one count of receiving visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. A count of possessing such images was dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Diocese of Davenport employees found the pornographic images depicting boys or adolescent males engaging in sex acts on Poster’s laptop computer in December 2002 and turned the computer in to police. At the time, Poster served as director of liturgy for the diocese and was an associate publisher of its newspaper, the Catholic Messenger.
His prior duties included serving at St. John Vianney in Bettendorf, St. Mary’s in Iowa City, Sacred Heart Church in Oxford Junction, St. James in Toronto and Sacred Heart in Lost Nation, Iowa. He was ordained Dec. 5 ,1992.
Poster apologized to the judge before his sentence was handed down in federal court here and acknowledged that he had hurt many people with his actions.
But being in therapy the past year has aided his recovery and helped him come to terms with the fact he is homosexual, he said.
“I am a gay man and an addict. This is my reality,” Poster said.
Diocese officials said he faces possible disciplinary action, but Poster said he would be giving up his life in the priesthood.
“I do not believe this lifestyle is a healthy way of life for me,” he added.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Longstaff departed from federal guidelines to give Poster a lighter sentence than the recommended 21 to 27 months in prison, noting that friends and family members had sent about 40 letters to the court in support of the priest.
While on supervision, Poster will be prohibited from having unsupervised contact with minors and from having a computer with Internet access without approval from probation officials.
Prosecutor Richard Richards, who handles child exploitation cases for the U.S. Attorney’s office, pushed for the maximum sentence allowed by the guidelines, calling child pornography a “blight on our country.”
“It’s stealing from our children their own selves,” he said.
Richards said Poster did not deserve to be treated any differently because he is a member of the clergy than a farmer or a lawyer caught with child pornography.
“Everybody’s treated the same,” added Richards, who said he did not know whether prosecutors would appeal Longstaff's sentence.
Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and former priest from California who has studied and written extensively on the issue of sexuality and celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church, testified that Poster’s case was far less serious than other sex cases involving priests he has evaluated. Unlike some of those instances, Poster was never accused of having sexual contact with minors, he said.
Sipe said he does not believe Poster is a pedophile or voyeur, despite the fact he was caught with child pornography. Poster has worked to rehabilitate himself at a treatment facility in Maryland and is beginning to understand his homosexual tendencies, Sipe testified.
“I think he has made a great leap in progress versus two years ago,” Sipe added.
Diocese spokesman David Montgomery said he was unaware that Poster had any plans to leave the priesthood, but added that the Diocesan Review Board still will take up the case at its next meeting now that the court phase has been concluded. The board will then make a recommendation to Bishop William Franklin.
[Charlotte Eby can be contacted at (515) 243-0138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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