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Meisinger, Cooper Among Priests Named As Abuse Scandal Rocks the Catholic Church

Saturday, April 7, 2018 @ 10:04 AM

Posted by Jake Bauer

catholic-churchERIE, Pa. (EYT) – At least three priests and three laymen with local connections were among those listed by the Catholic Diocese of Erie Friday as it released the names of 51 people who were “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct dating as far back as 1944.

[PHOTO: Catholic Diocese of Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico conducts a news conference in Erie, Pa., on Friday, April 6, 2018. The diocese released the names of priests and laypeople credibly accused of inappropriate sexual conduct and announced a new policy regarding those who work with minors. (Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News via AP)]

The list, which made headlines before it was even released, includes 34 priests — 20 of whom are deceased — as well as 17 laymen, two of whom are deceased.

Bishop Lawrence Persico, of the Catholic Diocese of Erie, said the persons on the list “have been credibly accused of actions ranging from furnishing pornography to minors to direct, sexual assault of minors.”

Locally, Fr. Joseph F. Meisinger, Fr. Donald J. Cooper, and William Garvey – all of who are now deceased – are among those accused.

Meisinger served in Clarion from 1956 to 1972 while Cooper spent time from 1963 to 1984 at various area churches in New Bethlehem, DuBois, Reynoldsville, and Titusville.

William Garvey, an Oil City native who passed away in 2017, was a high school teacher and basketball coach at the Catholic Church. He joined the faculty of Mercyhurst in 1962 and later became dean of the college, vice president of academic affairs and was elected president in 1980. In 2008, he founded the Jefferson Educational Society of Erie.

Additionally, the Rev. David Poulson – an Oil City native who most recently had been a pastor in Cambridge Springs and previously served at St. Michael parish in Fryburg between the late 1990s and 2013 – is one of three men listed who are currently under investigation by law enforcement.

Poulson was barred from the Catholic Church along with the Rev. Sean Kerins, who was removed as the chaplain of Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage, Mercer County, and from the Church of the Good Shepherd Parish in West Middlesex, Mercer County. Kerins allegedly sent several inappropriate text messages to a student at Kennedy Catholic. Both investigations are ongoing.

Perhaps the most notable name on the list – Bishop Alfred Watson, who led the diocese until the early 1980s – was named for allegedly “failing to act to stop abuse which was credibly reported to him.”

“I know people stand firmly on both sides of whether or not releasing the names of these individuals is the right decision,” said Bishop Persico. “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, 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.”

Diocese of Erie Subpoenaed by AG, Grand Jury Investigation

Early in his tenure, Bishop Persico invited Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri to go through files related to sexual abuse and other inappropriate behavior by people — both clergy and lay — working for the diocese itself, as well as any Catholic school or agency in the diocese.

The files, which dated back to 1944, were also reviewed by the diocese with the help of outside lawyers and investigators.

Investigators had to suspend their efforts in September 2016 when the Pennsylvania Attorney General included the Erie Diocese among the six that are now part of the grand jury investigation into sex abuse within the Catholic Church.

In addition to Erie, the state attorney general’s office has been investigating the dioceses of Allentown, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Harrisburg, and Scranton.

“We have shared everything we discovered through this investigation with the attorney general and continue to work with his office in this important undertaking,” said Bishop Persico. “We do not know when the grand jury report will be forthcoming, but I am sure it will be a sobering moment for all of us.”

The state attorney general’s office is expected to release the findings by June.

New Policy Put in Place, Bishop Persico Apologizes to Victims

On Friday, the Diocese of Erie unveiled a significantly revised “Policy for the Protection of Children and Youth.”

Members of the diocesan staff worked for more than a year with the Pittsburgh-based law firm, K&L Gates, to develop the policy.

The new policy includes three major new components:

  • An expanded set of definitions that leave no doubt as to what constitutes abuse. It also includes definitions for terms such as threshold evidence. In addition, it explains what needs to be present for a child abuse case to be considered substantiated.
  • A greatly expanded role of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth. It will now become the central depository of all allegations from any school, agency, parish or other source connected to the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Erie. Anyone working or volunteering with minors or youth in any Catholic institution in the Diocese of Erie currently must secure clearances from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition to those clearances, they will need a clearance from our Office for the Protection of Children and Youth.
  • An updated and revised website – www.ErieRCD.org/policyupdate.htm – that includes the names of people who have been credibly accused of actions ranging from furnishing pornography to minors to direct, sexual assault of minors. These actions, in the diocese’s judgment, disqualify them from working with children and youth. The website contains the new policy in its entirety.
  • Bishop Persico said he believes the new policy is among the most comprehensive in the nation.

    “The investigation provided us with an opportunity to intensify the efforts we had begun making to gain a fuller understanding of our past,” said Bishop Persico. “We sought the best advice and counsel we could get in updating our approach to protecting children and vulnerable adults.”

    “Some are concerned that publicizing (the names of the accused) will open old wounds. Very importantly, we are actually publishing the names in the hope of helping the victims/survivors move one step closer to healing those same wounds. It is important they know they are not alone.”

    Bishop Persico, who has met with several of the victims and their families, called the abuse appalling.

    “I want to express my sincere sorrow and apologies for the sexual abuse that has occurred within the church, particularly here in the Diocese of Erie,” said Bishop Persico. “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. 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.”

    “Like anyone else, I cannot comprehend how someone can victimize innocent children and youth. The vast majority of our priests are striving to live good and holy lives in service to God, to parishioners and to the community at large. The same goes for our many dedicated teachers and agency employees,” said Bishop Persico.

    Names Released, Diocese Calls for More Victims to Come Forward

    Bishop Persico said releasing the list of accused priests and laymen – something that other dioceses have shied away from – is an important step in helping the public become aware of “information that is important for the community’s well-being.”

    “In publishing the list of those who have credible allegations against them, the first goal is to protect children,” said Bishop Persico.

    “Some are concerned that publicizing these names will open old wounds,” said Bishop Persico. “Very importantly, we are actually publishing the names in the hope of helping the victims/survivors move one step closer to healing those same wounds. It is important they know they are not alone.”

    Bishop Persico is encouraging any additional victims of sexual abuse by people affiliated with the Catholic Church to come forward.

    “We understand that victims’ memories may be incomplete. We want to tell victims not to be concerned if they do not have exact dates or locations of their abuse,” said Bishop Persico. “We are willing to listen to them and accompany them as we all search for the truth.”

    A full list of names is provided below.

    Individuals who are believed to be alive and living in the locations noted:

    • Former Fr. Michael J. Amy — Niceville, Florida. Laicized (removed from ministry and later voluntarily resigned from the clergy)
    • Fr. Michael G. Barletta — Erie, Pennsylvania. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Fr. Robert F. Bower — Edinboro, Pennsylvania. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Andre C. Butler — Rosedale, New York. Former lay agency employee.
    • Former Fr. Dennis C. Chludzinski — Erie, Pennsylvania. Laicized.
    • Megan E. Fecko — Cleveland, Ohio. Former lay teacher.
    • Kevin J. Feyas — Erie, Pennsylvania. Former lay teacher and parish musician.
    • Former Fr. Chester J. Gawronski — Sahuarita, Arizona. Dismissed from the clergy.
    • Timothy G. Hanson, Sr. — North East, Pennsylvania. Layman prohibited from volunteer work or entering school property
    • Fr. Stephen E. Jeselnick — Colorado Springs, Colorado. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Former Fr. Gary L. Ketcham — Erie, Pennsylvania. Laicized.
    • Fr. Thaddeus T. Kondzielski — Waterford, Pennsylvania. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Kevin S. Kulhanek — Erie, Pennsylvania. Former lay school volunteer.
    • Fr. Salvatore P. Luzzi — Bradford, Pennsylvania. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Eve Minter (née Spangler) — Henrico, Virginia. Former lay teacher.
    • David Montgomery — Otisville, New York (in federal prison until 2041). Former lay teacher.
    • Fr. Leon T. Muroski — Erie, Pennsylvania. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Denise J. (née Geitner) Myers (Meyer) — Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Former lay teacher.
    • Hattie B. Nichols — Erie, Pennsylvania. Former lay agency employee.
    • Philip J. Pochatko — Subiaco, Arkansas. Former lay school teacher.
    • Brian J. Radachy — Elkton, Ohio (in federal prison until 2024). Former lay school teacher.
    • Former Fr. Samuel B. Slocum — Bradford, Pennsylvania. Dismissed from the clergy.
    • Former Fr. Thomas E. Smith — Erie, Pennsylvania. Dismissed from the clergy.
    • Fr. Daniel J. Taylor — Tucson, Arizona. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Ron Thomsen — Erie, Pennsylvania. Former lay volunteer.
    • Dennis E. Vickery — Erie, Pennsylvania. Former lay teacher.
    • Joseph M. Votino — Masury, Ohio. Former lay teacher/coach.
    • Craig T. Ward — Erie, Pennsylvania. Former lay agency employee.

    Deceased:

    • Fr. Donald C. Bolton, CSsR. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Fr. Edmund S. Borycz, OFM. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Msgr. Bonaventure M. Ciufoli. Returned to Italy.
    • Fr. Donald J. Cooper. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • William (Bill) Couse. Former lay school employee.
    • Fr. David V. Dobrowolski. Was able to function (abuse reported after his death.)
    • William P. Garvey. Former lay teacher/coach (later served as college president.)
    • Fr. Herbert G. Gloekler. Was able to function (abuse reported after his death.)
    • Fr. Robert E. Hannon. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Fr. Joseph W. Jerge. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Fr. Edward W. Jungquist. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Fr. Thomas C. Kelley. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Fr. Gerard (Gerald, Gerry) H. Krebs. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Fr. Jerry Kucan, OFM. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Msgr. Daniel Martin. Restricted from ministry (abuse reported during retirement/physical-health-leave and later, after death.)
    • Fr. Joseph F. Meisinger. Was able to function (abuse reported after his death.)
    • Fr. John L. Murray. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Fr. Giles L. Nealen, OSB. Was unable to function (was already confined to infirmary when abuse was reported.)
    • Fr. John A. Piatkowski. Believed to have died in 1970 with ability to function (records incomplete from relevant time periods.)
    • Former Fr. William F. Presley. Dismissed from the clergy.
    • Fr. John P. Schanz. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Fr. Charles A. Sheets, Jr. Forbidden to function as a priest.
    • Bishop Alfred M. Watson. Bishop of Erie (failed to act to stop abuse which was credibly reported to him.)

    Under Investigation

    • Fr. Sean P. Kerins — Naples, Florida
    • Fr. David L. Poulson – Oil City, Pennsylvania
    • John (Jack) E. Tome — location unknown (last known to be in Columbia, Maryland)

    The full report can be viewed here.


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