Boy, Mom Testify in Pa. Priest Relationship Trial
San Antonio Express-News
January 17, 2012
A teenage boy testified that a suspended Catholic priest from northwestern Pennsylvania continued to contact him and invite him to visit even after the boy's mother objected.
The mother, meanwhile, testified that she continued to allow another son to visit the priest because he wasn't lying about it and hiding the visits.
Testimony was to continue Tuesday in the trial of the Rev. Samuel Slocum. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie suspended Slocum, 60, from duties at two churches in rural McKean County after he was charged in April with corruption of minors, interference with the custody of children, concealing the whereabouts of a child and other crimes.
Slocum allegedly gave the boy gifts, as well as an iPhone and a laptop computer so the teen could stay in touch with the priest, even after his mother told Slocum to stop contacting the boy, who was 15 at the time. He was charged after she eventually complained to the diocese.
Slocum is not charged with having sexual contact with the boy, and the Bradford Era reported Tuesday that the priest's attorney, David Ridge, told jurors during opening statements Monday that the case is about whether "Father Slocum should have used better judgment."
"Even though he was a good priest, there were some instances where he could've done better," Ridge said. "There's no criminal intent here."
District Attorney Ray Learn agreed the case isn't about sexual abuse but told the jury that Slocum's conduct from January to March last year was criminal.
The boy testified he, his brother and other friends often visited Slocum at the rectory at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church in Lewis Run, where they played pool, watched a big-screen TV and played computer games. The boy acknowledged other adults were rarely there and that he often sneaked away to visit the priest and lied to his mother.
But the boy also testified about at least one sexually vulgar Facebook message he got from the priest, who taught him how to delete the messages and told the boy, "We have to be very careful." The boy testified receiving other messages from Slocum, including "When am I going to see you again," ''I miss you" and "I'm thinking about you."
The boy once messaged Slocum to say he'd sneak over for a visit after his mother went to sleep. He testified Slocum messaged him back saying, "Give her some sleeping pills."
The boy's mother testified she objected to the visits, saying her son began lying and sneaking out of the house when he began spending nearly all his spare time visiting Slocum. The woman said she went so far as to have her son stay with his grandfather, several miles away, but found out he still sneaked back to visit Slocum at least once.
The woman acknowledged, when questioned by the priest's attorney, that she continued to allow her other son to visit Slocum because he didn't lie or deceive her about such visits. She added, when questioned by the district attorney, however, that the 15-year-old stopped lying and deceiving her when he stopped visiting Slocum.
Erie Bishop Donald Trautman issued a statement after suspending Slocum in April, saying while the charges against the priest "are most serious, it is my understanding there is no criminal allegation of inappropriate sexual activity. Nevertheless, I view the conduct described in the criminal complaint as devastating, if true."
The trial was expected to continue until Wednesday.