New Pastor's Arrest for Child Porn Stuns Churchill Congregation

By Debra Erdley
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
December 12, 2011

On a crisp, sunny morning, worshippers at St. John Fisher Church in Churchill were coming to grips with a dark reality: Their new pastor, the Rev. Bartley Sorensen, had been arrested on child pornography charges.

"It's painful. People have worked so hard at this church," said Richard Yescavage as members filed out of a Sunday morning Advent Mass that featured a Nativity staged by a group of church preschoolers.

Yescavage, 81, of Forest Hills, a member of the Catholic church's council for 25 years, said he learned about the arrest from the evening news Saturday.

Sorensen, 62, was jailed in lieu of $100,000 bond on Saturday, one day after a church employee reported seeing him view photos of a young boy in a sexual position on a computer in his church office. According to court documents, Sorensen admitted to viewing and possessing more than 100 photos of prepubescent boys in sexual poses.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh immediately placed Sorensen, who had been at the church for less than a month, on administrative leave.

A trio of protesters who gathered outside the diocese's Downtown offices yesterday demanded a thorough investigation of Sorensen and insisted the diocese notify each of his prior parishes.

The links between viewing child porn and pedophilia are too strong to ignore, said Judy Jones, Midwest associate director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

"There are very possibly some children or adults there who have been harmed by Father Sorensen," Jones said.

Diocese spokesman the Rev. Ron Lengwin said outreach efforts are in place. He said the Pittsburgh Catholic, the diocesan newspaper, will report Sorensen's arrest.

Frances Samber of North Huntingdon, who joined Jones in Pittsburgh, urged anyone to report abuse to police. Tears streamed down her face as she spoke of her brother, Michael Unglo. She said he committed suicide years after being molested by a priest whom her family considered a friend.

"Our main goal is to let victims know that no matter how hard it is, silence is not an option. ...They are not alone. There are thousands of SNAP members who will help them," Samber said.

Back at St. John Fisher, as the children's Nativity play concluded, the Rev. Frederick Cain read a letter from Bishop David Zubik, acknowledging Sorensen's arrest.

"I know that this is a very difficult time for you and as your Shepherd, I suffer along with you. Being sensitive to the presence of children as this letter is being read, I will send additional information to all of you on Monday, by mail," Zubik's letter read.

Zubik, who was traveling in Rome when he learned of Sorensen's arrest, asked the congregation to keep Sorensen and the church in its prayers.

"Most of all, please remember prayerfully all the innocent victims of terrible crimes," Zubik concluded, promising to pray for the parish and celebrate Mass there on Sunday.

The Allegheny County Jail's behavioral staff will evaluate Sorensen today, officials said.

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