41 Offenders in Erie Catholic Diocese Named in Grand Jury Report on Clergy Sex Abuse
41 offenders in the Erie Catholic Diocese were named in the grand jury report released Tuesday afternoon on clergy sex abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses.
Two of the names were redacted.
In all, the grand jury report identifies 301 Catholic priests who sexually abused children while serving in active ministry in the church and accuses church leaders of taking steps to cover up the abuse. The grand jury found detailed accounts of more than 1,000 children who were victimized sexually, but the grand jury said it believed the real number of victims was in the "thousands."
In the Erie Catholic Diocese, the investigation found one priest - Father Chester Gawronski - fondled boys and told them he was giving them a “cancer check.” Gawronski provided the Diocese with a list of 41 possible victims and confessed to multiple instances of sexual abuse, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. However, he remained in active ministry for 15 years (1987-2002) and was repeatedly reassigned to new parishes.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro planned to publicly release the 884-page document in late June, but the report was held up while the identities of persons criticized in the report are blacked out or redacted.
They will argue their cases before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in September.
The grand jury does not issue any charges; this is just a presentment of findings. The Attorney General can use the presentment to later file charges.
In the Erie Diocese, Father David Poulson was charged in May for sexually assaulting a boy for eight years, starting when the boy was 8 years old. Poulson told the boy to go to confession and admit his “sins” to Poulson, the Attorney General's Office said. Shapiro said Bishop Donald Trautman knew about and covered up the abuse.
During a news conference Tuesday afternoon on the newly released report, Shapiro commended Erie Catholic Diocese Bishop Lawrence Persico for his handling of the investigation. He said Persico was the only one to testify in person to the grand jury. Persico reportedly said the mishandling of the sex abuse claims made him angry and he wanted to do the right things, Shapiro said.
The Erie Catholic Diocese was subpoenaed by the state Attorney General's Office in September 2016 as part of the investigation.
The report covers all six dioceses, including Erie, Allentown, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
Offenders identified by the grand jury in Erie Catholic Diocese
41 names total, two redacted
- Michael J. Amy
- Michael G. Barletta
- Donald C. Bolton
- Robert F. Bower
- Dennis Chludzinski
- Donald Cooper
- Michael R. Freeman
- Gregory P. Furjanic
- Chester "Chet" Gawronski
- Herbert G. Gloeker
- Robert E. Hannon
- James P. Hopkins
- Barry M. Hudock
- Joseph W. Jerge
- Stephen E. Jeselnick
- Thomas C. Kelley
- Gary L. Ketcham
- Thaddeus Kondzielski
- Gerard Krebs
- Jerry (John) Kucan
- Louis Lorei
- Salvatore P. Luzzi
- Richard D. Lynch
- Daniel Martin
- Leon T. Muroski
- Edmundus Murphy
- John L. Murray
- Giles L. Nealen
- Jan Olowin
- Andrew Pawlaczyk
- John A. Piatkowski
- David L. Poulson
- William Presley
- John Philip Schanz
- Samuel B. Slocum
- Thomas Smith
- Thomas Snyderwine
- John Tome
- Patrick Vallimont
Details on Erie offenders
Erie portion of report
Bishop Emeritus Donald Trautman's response
Grand jury recommendations
The grand jury has recommended several changes to Pennsylvania law:
- Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children. Current law permits victims to come forward until age 50. The grand jury recommends eliminating the criminal statute of limitation entirely for such crimes.
- Create a “civil window” so older victims may now sue for damages. Current law gives child sex abuse victims 12 years to sue, once they turn 18. But victims in their 30s and older fall under a different law; they only get two years. The grand jury called that “unacceptable” and recommends a limited “window” offering victims a chance to be heard in court for an additional two years.
- Clarify penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse. The grand jury recommends changing the abuse reporting law to clarify the duty to report abuse. The new language imposes a continuing obligation to report “while the person knows or has reasonable cause to believe the abuser is likely to commit additional acts of child abuse.”
- Specify that Civil Confidentiality Agreements do not cover communications with law enforcement. The grand jury wrote that the Church has used confidentiality agreements as a way to silence abuse victims from speaking publicly or cooperating with law enforcement. The grand jury proposes a new statute which clearly states that no past or present non-disclosure agreement prevents a victim from talking to police. Additionally, future agreements should state contact with police about criminal activity is permitted.
Watch the Attorney General's news conference on the report
Former priest charged
Charges were filed against former Erie Catholic Diocese priest David Poulson in May for the sexual abuse of two young boys.
The Attorney General's Office said the Diocese of Erie knew about Poulson's "sexual predator tendencies" since at least May 2010 but did nothing to report him to authorities until September 2016 in response to a grand jury subpoena.
The diocese produced a secret memo May 24, 2010 in which diocesan leaders confirmed complaints about Poulson's inappropriate contact with minors, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. The memo was reportedly hidden in church archives for six years. In it, he admitted to being "aroused" by a boy and sharing sexually suggestive text with numerous other boys, according to the Attorney General's Office.
Erie Catholic Diocese prepares for report's release
Lawyers for the Erie Catholic Diocese received a copy of the state grand jury report in late May.
Bishop Lawrence Persico met with Shapiro in May to discuss his testimony before the grand jury, the grand jury report and the Diocese of Erie's efforts to implement its revised policy for the protection of children.
The diocese already released a list of names of clergy and laypersons who were credibly accused of actions that, in the diocese’s judgment, disqualify them from working with children. It has since been updated multiple times, most recently in mid-July.
Priests in every church in the Erie Catholic Diocese this past weekend read a letter about the grand jury report from Bishop Lawrence Persico. He expressed sorrow for the victims and said it was clear church leaders did not adequately address the problem of clergy sex abuse.
Former Bishop withdraws appeal
Erie Catholic Diocese Bishop Emeritus Donald Trautman withdrew his appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to block the grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in early August.
Trautman initially filed the appeal because the grand jury report did not give a fair, accurate portrayal of his conduct and actions as bishop of the diocese for 22 years, according to a statement. He said the appeal was withdrawn over concerns that his appeal may prevent a large portion of the report on the Diocese from becoming public.
As part of Trautman's withdrawal, the Attorney General's office agreed to some stipulations to dismiss the appeal. Those stipulations include Trautman's disagreements and clarifications regarding the report be made public at the same time.
- Erie Catholic Diocese Priest Charged with Sexual Abuse of Two Boys
- Erie Diocese Has Struggled With Clergy Sex Abuse for Years
- Erie Diocese Lawyers Given Copy of Grand Jury Report
- Criticism Continues Over Delay in Diocese Abuse Report
- Erie Catholic Diocese Adds New Names to List of Clergy, Laypersons Credibly Accused of Sexual Abuse
- Former Erie Diocese Bishop Trautman Withdraws Appeal to Block Grand Jury Report on Clergy Sex Abuse
- Grand Jury Has Important Powers in Diocese Investigation
- Former Erie Diocese Bishop: 'There Was No Such Cover-Up' in Sex Abuse Case