Former Erie bishop says there was no cover-up of child sexual abuse on his watch
By Ivey Dejesus
May 9, 2018
|Erie Bishop Emeritus Donald Trautman says there was no cover-up of sexual abuse regarding Father David Poulson who has been arrested and charged with three felonies involving the sexual assault of two boys over the course of many years. |
The bishop who was at the helm in the Diocese of Erie during the years in which state investigators say a priest was abusing two boys, even as the diocese knew about it, is saying there was no cover-up of sexual abuse.
Bishop Emeritus Donald Trautman on Wednesday said in a written statement that in 2010, he had received a fourth-hand allegation about Father David Poulson's contact with a young adult man.
"There was no allegation of physical abuse or of contact with a minor," Trautman said. "I contacted diocesan counsel. I then immediately tried to contact the young man. There was no response after many attempts of sending letters and telephoning. From the time of the complaint, until I retired, the diocese received no other complaints about David Poulson."
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Tuesday announced the arrest of Poulson, 64, of Oil City, on charges he sexually assaulted two boys over the course of many years.
One of the victims was 8 years old when Poulson began abusing him. The second victim was 15 when the abuse started. Poulson assaulted one of his victims repeatedly in church rectories and made that victim go to confession and confess the abuse to him, Shapiro said.
Shapiro said grand jury investigators determined that the Diocese of Erie knew since at least May 2010 of the abuse. Bishop Lawrence Persico (the current Erie bishop) said that the diocese first learned of the alleged abuse in January. Persico said he immediately notified law enforcement.
Persico, who was installed as bishop in 2012, on Wednesday released another statement stating he "unequivocally" was not aware of any concerns regarding Poulson until he received the allegations in January of this year.
It was then, he said, that he learned of the memo that had been written in 2010.
"I came to the Diocese of Erie in late 2012," Persico said. "Among many initial responsibilities and priorities, I asked to be updated on any clergy abuse cases. Father Poulson's name was not mentioned."
He added that he contacted the district attorney to review clergy files, "so that I could be assured there were no cases that needed to be revisited." The process, he noted, was interrupted when the grand jury investigation began in September 2016.
Trautman, who served 22 years as bishop before Persico was installed, said he had dismissed 22 priests from ministry due to sexual abuse during his tenure.
Poulson, who had been a priest in the Erie diocese for four decades until earlier this year, has been charged with indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors. Three of the counts against Poulson are felonies.
The charges against Poulson were recommended by a statewide grand jury that has been investigating allegations of child sex crimes across six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania: including Harrisburg, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Erie and Scranton.
With regards to the charges against Poulson, Trautman said he had "prayerful support" for all victims of sexual abuse. "I abhor the evil of sexual abuse," he said.