Rev. Robert F. Bower– Assignment History

Summary of Case: Robert F. Bower was ordained in 1959 for the Diocese of Erie. He was chaplain at Gannon College and at a monastery for women religious in Erie for several years, followed by many years in campus ministry at Edinboro State College as chaplain, Associate Director and then Director. During 1992-1997 Gannon was Administrator of St. Anthony's parish in Cambridge Springs.

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. Bower was placed on leave by the diocese, sent to counseling, 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, including 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. Per the article, in 1982 a secretary at the Newman Center in Edinboro and two other women went to Bishop Murphy with concerns that Bower was receiving gay pornography in the mail. The former secretary said she was fired two days later. Trautman wrote in a letter to the editor that the women's claims were "outrageous" and lacked proof. The three filed a defamation lawsuit against the diocese and bishops Trautman and Murphy in May 2003.

Bower's name was included on the diocese's April 6, 2018 list of credibly accused priests, lay employees and volunteers. It noted that Bower was 'forbidden to function as a priest.'

: 1959


Start Stop Assignments Town/Allegations State Position Notes


Diocese of Erie

Bishop was John Mark Gannon (1920-1966).

1964 Gannon College Erie PA Chaplain  
1959 1964 Congregation of the Divine Spirit Erie PA Chaplain  


Gannon was succeeded as Erie bishop by John Francis Whealon (1966-1968), followed by Alfred Michael Watson (1969-1982), Michael Joseph Murphy (1982-1990), and Donald Walter Trautman (1990-2012).

1992 Our Lady of the Lake Edinboro PA

2/2, 2/3


Leon T. Muroski was Our Lady of the Lake pastor 1982-1992.

Our Lady of the Lake was the parish affiliated with Edinboro State College/University.

Muroski's name was included on the diocese's April 6, 2018 list of accused clergy, lay employees and volunteers.

1964 1994 Edinboro State College/University     Bower was a chaplain, Associate Director 1980-1982 and Director 1990-1994. Leon T. Muroski was Newman Center Associate Director 1982-1992. In 2002 a woman who had been secretary at the Newman Center told the Erie Times-News that, twenty years previously, she was concerned when Bower was receiving gay pornography in the mail. The woman said she and two other women went to Bishop Murphy and that she was fired two days later.
1992 1999 St. Anthony's

Cambridge Springs

Bower was arrested in March 1999 and charged with possession of child pornography, downloaded from the internet. Police were alerted in February by a computer repair shop employee who had been working on Bower's computer. The images were allegedly downloaded on Bower's computer from June 1996 to December 1998. One series of images reportedly showed a man sodomizing a 5-year-old boy.

PA 1/1, 1/2, 1/3 Administrator

Bower is not indexed beyond the 1999 Directory.


Bower was placed on leave during the investigation. He was sent to counseling, then allowed limited ministry. Bishop Trautman said in 2002 that he believed Bower's explanation that he had received the child pornography accidentally. State police said Bower admitted to obtaining the pornography. Trautman never looked at the criminal complaint. The charges were dropped in February 2001 on a technicality; per the District Attorney, the police did not make duplicates of Bower's hard drive before logging in themselves, so the evidence could not be used.

1999 April 2002     PA supply priest

Per news reports, Bowers was allowed to return to ministry at the Newman Center in Edinboro, and was a supply priest for the diocese. He occasionally would celebrate mass at St. Anne's in Wilcox.

Bower reportedly resigned in April 2002 after news reports of his 1999 arrest.

April 2002

Lawrence Thomas Persico replaced Trautman as Erie Bishop (2012-).

          In May 2003 the woman fired in 1982 after reporting Bower to the bishop filed a defamation lawsuit, along with two other women, against Trautman, Murphy and the diocese. The suit was in response to an April 21, 2002 letter to the editor in the Erie Times-News from Trautman in which he said the women's claims in a news story were "outrageous" and lacked proof. Trautman's letter came after a story was published with the women's accounts of going to the bishop in 1982 with their concerns about Bower receiving pornography. The women also said that Trautman instructed priests of the diocese to sermonize against them. The suit was dismissed by an Erie County judge in September 2003, and by the Superior Court in July 2004.

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Source: Official Catholic Directory (Kenedy & Sons, 1969-2002).

Child Porn Charges Filed against Priest, by Kevin Flowers and Jack Grazier, Erie Times-News, March 11, 1999
DA Drops Charges against Priest, by Ed Palattella, Erie Times-News, February 6, 2001
 Priest's Case Raises Questions, by Ed Palattella, Erie Times-News, April 17, 2002
 Special Reports: Catholic Bishops and Sex Abuse, Dallas Morning News, June 12, 2002
 Women: Bishops Wrong, by Ed Palattella, GoErie, May 22, 2003
 At Least 5 Priests Removed in Region, by Ed Palattella, Erie Times-News, June 29, 2003
 Women Appeal Dismissal of Suit against Erie Diocese, WNEP, August 25, 2004
 Revision to the Policy for the Protection of Children, Diocese of Erie, April 6, 2018
 Erie Diocese Releases Names of Accused Priests, Laypeople, by Ed Palattella, GoErie, April 6, 2018

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Bower's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with the allegations against him, as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegations we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on June 20, 2018.


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