A Pennsylvanian Roman Catholic priest was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting at least two young boys over a period of 40 years.
The Rev. David Poulson’s arrest was announced by State Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The assault charges include allegations of Poulson, 64, molesting minors while making one of them confess to sexual assault at the same church.
Many of the alleged assaults took place in a cabin Poulson owned with Mark Bettwy, a sergeant with the Pennsylvania State Police.
He is currently being held at the Jefferson County Jail, with bail set at $300,000.
One of the victims alleged the abuse started on a weekly basis when he was just 8 and continued until he was 16.
The other victim was 15.
The charges, including indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors, were recommended by a statewide investigating grand jury, which investigated Poulson to find out if the alleged assault occurred when he was an active priest at the Erie diocese.
“Poulson assaulted one of his victims repeatedly in church rectories,” Shapiro said. “He made that victim go to confession and confess the abuse – to Poulson. This was the ultimate betrayal and manipulation by Poulson. He used the tools of the priesthood to further his abuse.”
The grand jury presented its findings with respect to the investigation.
“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 this victim served as an altar boy at Mass. These assaults took place more than 20 times,” the findings stated.
“Poulson required this victim to make confession in church and confess to the sexual assaults — to Poulson, who served as the priest receiving the boy’s confession,” the grand jury's findings continued.
“Poulson also assaulted this victim and a second victim at a remote hunting cabin that he owned with a friend in Jefferson County. The cabin was off-the-grid and was located 10 minutes off the main road in a rural location. It lacked electricity, heat or running water. Poulson would bring the youths to the cabin, watch horror movies with them on his laptop and then assault them,” it stated.
According to the grand jury, Bettwy, the co-owner of the cabin, was aware Poulson frequented the cabin with young boys.
“This was the ultimate betrayal and manipulation by Poulson — he used the tools of the priesthood to further his abuse,” Shapiro said.
Another troubling aspect of Poulson’s case is that the church allegedly knew about his behavior and tried to hide it at least from 2010 to 2016.
According to Shapiro, in 2010 a secret memo was circulated within the church, which confirmed Poulson’s predatory behavior against minors. The memo also stated Poulson accepted being “aroused” by a minor and that he sent inappropriate texts to a number of young boys.
“The time of protecting powerful institutions over vulnerable children is over, and anyone who abuses kids will have to answer to my office,” said the attorney general.
A military chaplain at Fort Hood, Texas, phoned the Erie police and said the victim, who was now 23 years old, confessed to being sexually assaulted by Poulson over a period of several years.
“Children are targeted by predators because they are vulnerable, they are young and they struggle with shame, confusion, or fear,” Shapiro said. “But once a victim finds the courage to come forward, law enforcement must take action. Poulson faces serious felony charges for the sexual abuse of a child. We will hold him accountable.”
Apart from the two victims, at least nine other men came forward with similar accusations against Poulson, who said he befriended them while they were young boys and often presented them with gifts and cash, in return for sexual favors on at least one of the occasions.
Shapiro also called to eradicate the Pennsylvania statute of limitations for sex crimes against children.
“It is long past time to reform these arbitrary time frames and seek justice for our children,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “In this case, our investigators uncovered evidence of other sexual assaults – but the statute of limitations prohibited us from filing those charges. This victim – all victims – are entitled to justice.”
Shapiro tweeted, urging people to come forward if they have any news regarding sex offenders at the church in Pennsylvania.
If you have information regarding child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in PA, please contact my Office’s Clergy Abuse Hotline at: 1-888-538-8541. We will pursue every lead we receive.— AG Josh Shapiro (@PAAttorneyGen) May 8, 2018
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Pennsylvania’s Attorney General’s Office