Priest Charged with Viewing Child Porn in Churchill Rectory

By Michael A. Fuoco
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
December 10, 2011

The pastor of St. John Fisher Church in Churchill was arrested today on a charge of possessing child pornography after investigating detectives said he admitted using his computer in the church rectory to view at least 100 images of child pornography.

The Rev. Bartley A. Sorensen, 62, was arraigned on the third-degree felony early this afternoon in Pittsburgh Municipal Court. District Judge Tara Smith set bail at $100,000 and required Father Sorensen to undergo an evaluation by the Allegheny County Behavioral Clinic and prohibited him from using electronic equipment.

The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, diocesan spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said in a statement that when diocesan officials learned of a report from a church employee of what she viewed as criminal behavior by Father Sorensen, they immediately contacted police and removed Father Sorensen from active ministry and placed him on administrative leave.

"There were no previous allegations against him," Father Lengwin said in an interview.

The criminal investigation of Father Sorensen began Friday when Monica Fisher, an office employee at St. John Fisher Church, contacted the Catholic Child Abuse Hotline in regard to what she witnessed that morning in the rectory of the church at 33 Lewin Lane.

According to an affidavit supporting the arrest, she told Detective Lynn Havelka of the Allegheny County District Attorney's office that she was walking up the stairs from the church's basement office to the rectory and announced her presence. She said Father Sorensen told her to come up and she heard noises that sounded like a computer mouse being repeatedly clicked.

Upon entering the rectory, according to the affidavit, she saw Father Sorensen sitting at the computer, which had numerous minimized screens. The computer's monitor showed a boy of from 5 to 10 years old, naked from the waist down, with the words "Hottie Boys" across the top of the screen, the affidavit said.

"She stated that she was appalled and said to Father Sorensen, 'Really?' He replied, 'Oh, yeah,'" according to the affidavit.

Ms. Fisher left immediately and went back to the office and 10 to 15 minutes later Father Sorensen came there and acted as if nothing had occurred, the affidavit said. She told authorities that Father Sorensen, who has been at the church for about three weeks, spends "hours upon hours" on the computer, mostly with the door closed.

The desktop computer is owned by Father Sorensen and is not hooked up to the church's computers, the affidavit said.

Detective Havelka obtained a search warrant and served it along with Allegheny County Detective Tim Haney. Father Sorensen arrived shortly after the detectives executed the warrant and he admitted to them during an interview that he possessed and viewed at least 100 images of child pornography consisting of prepubescent males.

Detective Haney performed a forensic review of the computer's hard drive and found several still-image files depicting prepubescent males either posed naked or engaged in sexual activity with other boys or with men.

Father Sorensen, who celebrated the 35th anniversary of his ordination in October, had most recently been assigned at St. Anne Church in Castle Shannon for nine months.

From 2004 until he was assigned to St. Anne, Father Sorensen was the chaplain at West Penn Hospital. From 1999 to 2003, he was pastor at St. Victor Church in West Deer. He took a year's sabbatical for personal reasons in 2003, Father Lengwin said.p>

"The viewing of pornographic images involving children is a disturbing and criminal act," Father Lengwin said in the prepared statement. "The Diocese of Pittsburgh is cooperating to the fullest extent in the investigation of this incident.Please keep in your prayers all victims of the tragedy of sexual abuse."

A preliminary hearing was set for 10 a.m. Dec. 19 before Penn Hills District Judge Leonard J. Hromyak.


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