Bishop's Account of Sexual Abuse Cover-up Conflicts with Grand Jury's Findings
By Keith Gushard
May 11, 2018
A statement by the Catholic Diocese of Erie's retired bishop insisting there was no cover-up of alleged sexual abuse by a priest against two boys conflicts with findings of fact issued by the statewide grand jury investigating the case.
Donald Trautman, the retired bishop of the diocese, released a statement Wednesday stating there was no cover-up of the alleged sexual abuse by Father David Poulson and that Trautman "was aggressive in the removal of abusive priests."
Findings of fact issued by the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury after it heard testimony and reviewed church records contradict Trautman's public statement.
Trautman told Poulson to "cease and desist" suggestive contact with boys in a May 2010 confidential church memorandum written by Trautman after complaints about Poulson had been received by the diocese. The confidential church memorandum was obtained by the grand jury after it subpoenaed the diocese "to produce any and all records related to child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and religious leaders of the diocese," the grand jury's findings of fact state.
Poulson, 64, of Oil City was charged Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General with eight counts of alleged sexual abuse involving two boys who were ages 8 and 15 at the time when the alleged abuse began. The alleged abuse took place between 2002 and 2010.
Trautman was bishop of the diocese from June 2, 1990, until his retirement June 30, 2012.
The grand jury found Poulson sexually assaulted one victim repeatedly in church rectories at St. Michaelís Catholic Church in Fryburg and St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Cambridge Springs. The grand jury also found Poulson assaulted the first victim and a second victim at a remote hunting cabin that Poulson owned with a friend in Jefferson County.
In his public statement Wednesday, Trautman said he there was no cover-up of sexual abuse in relation to Poulsonís arrest.
"In 2010, I received a fourth-hand allegation about Poulsonís contact with a young adult man," Trautmanís statement read. ďThere was no allegation of physical abuse or of contact with a minor. I contacted diocesan counsel."
The grand jury's findings of fact said there was a confidential church memorandum written by Trautman about complaints over Poulson's contact with minors. The memorandum was dated May 24, 2010.
"The memorandum revealed that during a recorded interview, Poulson admitted that his text messages with male minors were 'suggestive to sexual advances,'" the grand jury's findings of fact state. "He also admitted to Trautman that during the course of tutoring a minor, he shared a book with the boy and was 'aroused.' He then admitted to hugging the boy.
"Trautman's memorandum indicated that he (Trautman) 'admonished' Poulson and told him to 'cease and desist' such behavior," the grand jury's findings of fact state. "He further noted that spending time alone with a minor was a violation of diocesan policy."
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org