Many with local ties named on Erie Diocese abuse list

By Marcie Schellhammer
Bradford Era
April 07, 2018

Michael Amy, Salvatore Luzzi, Samuel Slocum, Joseph Jerge, Giles Nealen, WIlliam Presley, Stephen Jeselnick, David Poulson — these natives of, or former leaders of congregations, in the region are members of the list released Friday by the Erie Diocese of priests with “credible accusations” against them of abusive conduct.

Bishop Lawrence Persico released the list of 34 priests — 20 of whom are deceased — and 17 lay men and women, two of whom are deceased.

He expressed his sorrow for and apologies to the victims.

“I have met with victims and listened to the pain they and their loved ones experienced. It is appalling to learn what they went through,” Persico said. “Abuse is traumatic enough — but it’s earth-shattering when it’s perpetrated by someone who is in a position of trust. I have a profound personal respect for survivors of abuse.”

A six-year investigation by the diocese, which ended when the state attorney general’s office subpoenaed records in 2016, found abuse claims dating back to 1944, Persico said.

“I know people stand firmly on both sides of whether or not releasing the names of these individuals is the right decision,” Persico said. “Some will say that it has taken far too long to publish these names. Others think we shouldn’t do it at all. They say we are not showing mercy.

“As Catholics,” the bishop continued, “we believe the Lord has infinite mercy and absolution for those who are contrite and sincerely seek forgiveness. But that does not mean they are free from the ramifications of their behavior.”

Persico added the goal isn’t to make the lives of the victims more difficult, but rather to help them “move one step closer to healing” old wounds. He encouraged the media to publicize the list to a wide audience “in the hope that all victims who feel locked in darkness will consider coming forward to begin the healing process.”

Slocum was prosecuted in McKean County for concealment of the whereabouts of a child and corruption of minors. From January to March 2011, while Slocum was the priest at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church in Lewis Run and St. Francis of Assisi in Bradford, he had an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy. He gave the boy expensive gifts, had the child at his residence without the boy’s mother’s permission and lied about it when confronted, according to court records.

Poulson, ordained to the priesthood in 1979, was assigned to a teaching position at Bradford Central Christian High School. An investigation into a sexual abuse allegation against him is ongoing in the Cambridge Springs area.

Amy served at St. Bernard Church in the 1980s, leaving late in that decade for an assignment in Kane before leaving the priesthood. The information from the diocese indicated he was removed from ministry, and later voluntarily resigned from the clergy. He lives in Niceville, Fla., the diocese stated.

Luzzi was pastor at St. Joseph Church of Warren from 1979-95, according to the church’s website. In 1980, under his leadership, the St. Joseph Catholic School/ Religious Educational Center was opened. No further information about the allegations against him was available. Luzzi lives in Bradford.

Jerge, who died in 2006, served at St. Callistus Church in Kane for 19 years. According to the diocese, he had been forbidden to function as a priest. No information on the allegations against him was available.

Presley, now deceased, had been a pastor in Elk County. He was dismissed from the clergy in 2002 in connection with an allegation of improper sexual conduct with a 20-year-old male student at the University of Notre Dame in the 1970s, according to an old release from the diocese and a story in the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.

Jeselnick, now a resident of Colorado Springs, Colo., is a native of St. Marys. He is forbidden to function as a priest, according to the diocese. Allegations against him concerned unwanted sexual contact with a 20-year-old male, who had filed suit against Jeselnick and the Erie Diocese. The victim, who publicly identified himself, settled for a payment of $25,000, according to the Meadville Tribune.

Nealen, OSB, died in 1996. He served as an assistant pastor at Sacred Heart in St. Marys from 1951 to 1954, an assistant pastor at Queen of the World Church in St. Marys from 1968 to 1971, and pastor at Queen of the World Church from 1990 to 1992. He retired to the St. Vincent Archabbey in 1992.

The diocese said Nealen was confined to the monastic infirmary at the Archabbey when the claims against him were made.

The others named by Persico are as follows: Michael Barletta, Erie, forbidden to function as priest; Robert Bower, Edinboro, forbidden to function as priest; Andre Butler, Rosedale, N.Y., former lay agency employee; Dennis Chlidzinski, Erie, laicized; Megan Fecko, Cleveland, Ohio, former lay teacher; Kevin Feyas, Erie, former lay teacher and parish musician; Chester Gawronski, Sahuarita, Ariz., dismissed from clergy; Timothy Hanson Sr., North East, layman prohibited from volunteer work or entering school property; Gary Ketcham, Erie, laicized; Thaddeus Kondzielski, Waterford, forbidden to function as a priest; Kevin Kulhanek, Erie, former lay school volunteer; Eve Spangler Minter, Henrico, Va., former lay teacher; David Montgomery, in federal prison in Otisville, N.Y., former lay teacher; Leon Muroski, Erie, forbidden to function as a priest;

Denise Ginter Myers, Greensburg, former lay teacher; Hattie Nichols, Erie, former lay agency employee; Philip Pochatko, Subiaco, Ark., former lay school teacher; Brian Radachy, in federal prison in Elkton, Ohio, former lay school teacher; Thomas Smith, Erie, dismissed from clergy; Daniel Taylor, Tucson, Ariz., forbidden to function as a priest; Ron Thomsen, Erie, former lay volunteer; Dennis Vickery, Erie, former lay teacher; Joseph Votino, Masury, Ohio, former lay teacher/coach; Craig Ward, Erie, former lay agency employee.

In the list of deceased persons, the diocese included the late Bishop Alfred Watson, saying he “failed to stop abuse which was credibly reported to him.”

Also on the list were the following: Father Donald Bolton, Father Edmund Borycz, Monsignor Bonaventure Ciufoli, Father Donald Cooper, William Couse, Father David Dobrowolski, William Garvey, Father Herbert Gloekler, Father Robert Hannon, Father Edward Jungquist, Father Thomas Kelley, Father Gerard Krebs, Father Jerry Kucan, Monsignor Daniel Martin, Father Joseph Meisinger, Father John Murray, Father John Piatkowski, Father John Schanz and Father Charles Sheets Jr.

In addition to Poulson, two others are listed as being under investigation, Father Sean Kerins of Naples, Fla., and John “Jack” Tome, with a last known address of Columbia, Md.



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