A former Catholic priest who had admitted to sexually abusing children in the US state of Pennsylvania was sentenced Friday to up to 14 years in prison — the second clergyman to be jailed in the wake of a damning statewide grand jury report.
David Poulson, 65 — who served as a priest for four decades in the Diocese of Erie — had entered a guilty plea in October after being accused of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault of two boys, aged eight and 15, in the 2000s.
“Poulson assaulted one of his victims more than 20 times in church rectories,” state Attorney General Josh Shapiro told reporters, according to a statement from his office. He made that victim go to confession and confess the abuse — to Poulson.”
The specific charges against Poulson were corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children. His sentence could be as short as 2.5 years or as long as 14 years, the maximum under state law. The priest — who was only suspended in 2018, eight years after the diocese first learned of allegations against him — also assaulted the same boy and repeatedly attempted to assault another victim at his remote hunting cabin.
Poulson was named in a sweeping Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August that revealed credible allegations against more than 300 suspected predator priests and identified over 1,000 victims of child sex abuse.
In many cases, the abuse was covered up by the Catholic Church for decades. In 2010, when the church first learned of the claims against Poulson, he admitted to then bishop Donald Trautman that he was “aroused by boys,” the attorney general’s office said. But Trautman, who retired in 2012, simply assigned him to a different parish.
While most of the cases cited in the grand jury report could not be brought to trial due to a statute of limitations, Poulson and John Sweeney were charged and jailed. Last month, Sweeney was sentenced to 11.5 months to five years in prison for abusing a 10-year-old in the 1990s.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report, which slammed the American Catholic Church for turning a blind eye, or actively covering up abuse allegations, sparked similar inquiries in other US states.
In December, the Illinois attorney general published a report saying that nearly 700 clergymen had been accused of child sexual assault, a far greater number than had been previously disclosed by Church authorities. These reports have prompted activists to campaign for statutes of limitations on sex abuse charges to be eliminated. So far, those efforts have been unsuccessful.
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