Former Priest in Jefferson County Child Sex Abuse Case Defrocked by Vatican

ERIE, Pa. (EYT) – The Vatican has officially defrocked a former local priest convicted of sex crimes against children.

(Photos by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography.)

David L. Poulson was one the priests revealed by Attorney General Josh Shapiro investigation of abuse of children by priests in August of 2018. In October, he pleaded guilty to Corruption of Minors and Endangering the Welfare of Children.

As part of the plea agreement, Poulson agreed to seek laicization, the process that removes a priest from the priesthood, according to the Diocese of Erie.

In January, he was sentenced to two and a half to 14 years in prison for his repeated sexual assaults against one boy and the attempted assault of another boy.

According to the grand jury’s presentment:

– Poulson sexually assaulted one victim repeatedly in church rectories at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Fryburg and Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Cambridge Springs. The abuse at the rectories usually happened on Sundays – after the victim served as an altar boy at Mass.

– Poulson also assaulted this victim and attempted to assault a second victim at a remote hunting cabin that he owned with a friend in Jefferson County. In an effort to assault them, Poulson would bring the youths to the cabin and watch horror movies with them on his laptop.

Poulson was assigned to various parishes during his tenure as a priest in the Erie Diocese. His assignments included serving as Pastor of St. Agnes in Morrisdale, St. Michael’s in Fryburg, St. Anthony of Padua in Cambridge Springs, and St. Bernadette in Cambridge Springs.

Since at least May 2010, the Diocese of Erie under Bishop Donald Trautman reportedly knew of Poulson’s predatory tendencies – but did nothing to report him to authorities until September 2016, in response to a subpoena from the grand jury. Trautman himself interviewed Poulson in May 2010, and Poulson admitted to the bishop that he was aroused by boys. Despite knowing of Poulson’s admission, the priest was allowed by the Diocese to remain in ministry until 2018, when he was finally suspended by Bishop Lawrence Persico.

Bishop Persico Releases Statement

Bishop Persico released the following statement on Poulson’s sentencing:

“This is a very sad moment for everyone who has been impacted by the crimes committed by Father David Poulson. It’s my hope that the events of this day will bring a measure of healing to victims. As part of his plea, Father Poulson agreed to seek laicization, meaning he will no longer be a member of the clergy. He has made the request, and the diocese has sent the necessary documents to the Vatican. My prayers are with the victims, with the parish communities where David served, and with all those who are experiencing the pain of this situation.”

Poulson Notified of Laicization

Poulson has been notified by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that he was “granted a dispensation from all the obligations attached to holy orders (priesthood).”

Attorney General Shapiro’s Comprehensive Investigation of Predator Priests

On August 15, 2018, Attorney General Shapiro released the comprehensive findings of a statewide investigative grand jury that spent two years uncovering abuse of children by priests and a systematic cover-up spanning decades by senior church leaders in Pennsylvania and the Vatican.

The grand jury found:

– 301 Catholic priests identified as predator priests who sexually abused children while serving in active ministry in the church.

– Detailed accounts of over 1,000 children victimized sexually by predator priests, with the grand jury noting it believed the real number of victims was in the “thousands.”

– Senior church officials, including bishops, monsignors, and others, knew about the abuse committed by priests, but routinely covered it up to avoid scandal, criminal charges against priests, and monetary damages to the dioceses.

– Priests committed acts of sexual abuse upon children and were routinely shuttled to other parishes – while parishioners were left unaware of sexual predators in their midst.

Read the full grand jury Diocese victim report here.

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