Erie Diocese agrees to $2 million settlement with abuse victim
The Erie Catholic Diocese will pay $2 million to settle claims with a man who said he was sexually abused by former priest and convicted pedophile David L. Poulson.
The abuse occurred when Poulson was serving at St. Michael’s Church in Fryburg, Pa., from 2002-10 and St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cambridge Springs in late 2010, said Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented the victim identified only as “John Doe.” Poulson is serving up to 14 years at SCI-Camp Hill.
He was one of two priests charged as a result of a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation and resulting report released in August that detailed allegations against 300 priests accused of abusing more than 1,000 victims over seven decades in six of the state’s dioceses.
Calling Poulson the face of pedophilia in the Erie Diocese, Garabedian blasted church officials for failing to protect children. He said the grand jury found that both former Bishop Donald Trautman and current Bishop Lawrence Persico had access to records indicating that Poulson was a sexual predator, yet failed to warn the public before the grand jury probe unveiled Poulson’s actions.
The $2 million settlement was not part of an ongoing compensation fund the diocese launched to compensate abuse victims, nor was it the result of a lawsuit, Garabedian said. Instead, the diocese opted to settle the claim before the victim filed suit, the attorney said.
Diocesan officials had no immediate comment on the settlement.
Poulson, 65, who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys and making one of them say confession after the assaults, was sentenced to 2-½ to 14 years in prison in January.
Garabedian indicated his client was one of those victims. Now in his 20s, he was abused for eight years, from 2002-10, Garabedian said.
“Father Poulson was a cunning and clever child predator,” Garabedian said. He said the priest ingratiated himself with the victim’s family and made them trust him, even as he abused the boy.
The only other person charged criminally as a result of the statewide grand jury investigation was John Thomas Sweeney, 76, a former priest in the Greensburg diocese. He was sentenced in December to 11-½ months to five years in prison after pleading guilty to indecent assault in the sexual assault a 10-year-old boy at the St. Margaret Mary Church Catholic School in Lower Burrell in 1991 and 1992.
Over his career in the Greensburg diocese, which began in 1970 at Holy Family Church in Latrobe, Sweeney served at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg; St. Hedwig Church in Smock, Fayette County; St. Mary in Freeport; St. James Parish in Apollo; and Holy Family Parish in West Newton.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .