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The priests served in Sharon, Hermitage and Greenville

Grand Jury names ten former Mercer County priests in sex abuse report

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Ten priests named in a grand jury report on clergy abuse in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses had been assigned to parishes or other institutions in Mercer County at one point in their careers. An eleventh priest was once assigned to the Diocese of Youngstown, according to the report.

In a report released by court order on Tuesday, a Pennsylvania grand jury identified more than 1,000 child victims and more than 300 clergy members across the state.

Ten of the priests, some of whom are now deceased, worked in Sharon, Hermitage, and Greenville.

The priests served in some capacity between 1952 and 1999 at Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Adalbert in Sharon; Notre Dame and Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage, and St. Michael in Greenville.

The report does not allege that all of the priests engaged in child sex abuse at all Mercer County locations, but were accused of the violations elsewhere.

There are some notable exceptions.

The Grand Jury received several documents alleging that between 1969 and 1970, Father Michael Barletta was seen exposing his genitals to a child at St Joseph Church in Sharon. 

In addition, a 39-year-old man wrote a letter to the Diocese saying that in 1974 he began an "inappropriate" relationship Father Jerry Kucan when he was serving midnight mass at St. Anthony's School in Sharon.

A more detailed account of the allegations may be found below. Some of the accounts include explicit descriptions of sexual behavior.

The report shows how many of the clergy members moved around from church to church in spite of the allegations.

The following are excerpts from the grand jury report as it applies to priests who served in some capacity at churches or other Catholic institutions in Mercer County. Those institutions are italicized and underlined.

Father Thomas Smith

Known Assignments

06/16/1967 – 08/15/1967 Our Lady of Peace, Erie
09/15/1967 – 06/03/1970 Sacred Heart, Erie
06/03/1970 - 02/12/1971 St. Patrick, Franklin
02/12/1971 – 07/16/1972 Notre Dame, Hermitage
07/16/1972 – 06/23/1978 St John the Baptist, Erie
06/23/1978 – 06/01/1981 St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Punxsutawney
06/01/1981 – 10/23/1984 St. Mary of the Assumption, Frenchville
02/01/1984 – 10/01/1984 Health Leave
03/08/1984 – 03/08/1989 Presbyterian Council, Erie
10/23/1984 – 02/05/1985 St. Joseph, DuBois
02/05/1985 - 03/12/1985 St. Hippolyte, Guys Mills
08/08/1985 – 09/16/1985 St. Joseph, Mt. Jewett
09/16/1985 – 12/12/1986 St. Teresa, Union City
12/12/1986 – 04/22/1987 Health Leave, Girard, Ecclesia Center
04/22/1987 – 11/30/1987 Health Leave, Suitland, Maryland, St. Luke’s Institute
12/01/1987 – 09/01/1992 St. Joseph, Warren
09/01/1992 – 05/01/1994 Holy Rosary, Erie
05/01/1994 - Pleasant Ridge Manor, East Mercy Motherhouse
05/01/1994 - Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse, Erie
05/01/1994 - St. Patrick’s, Erie, St. Hedwig Cluster

Father Thomas Smith was ordained in 1967. In 1981 he was assigned to Saint Mary of the Assumption. Bishop Michael Murphy was first told of child sexual abuse perpetrated by Smith against a 17-year-old boy in January 1984 while at Saint Mary’s. Smith resigned on January 20, 1984.

From February 1984 to October 1984, Smith was placed on “health leave.” In reality, he was in residential psychological therapy. In October, Smith was released and reassigned by Murphy to Saint Joseph’s in DuBois, Pennsylvania until February 1985.

In February 1985, Smith was transferred to Saint Hippolyte in Guys Mills, Pennsylvania for approximately one month.

From March 1985 to August 1985, Murphy sent Smith to residential psychological therapy once again. Official Diocesan records obtained by the Grand Jury show this was designated as a leave of absence. Upon his release, Smith was sent to Saint Joseph’s in Mount Jewett in August 1985.

After about one month at Saint Joseph’s, Smith was transferred to Saint Teresa in Union City, Pennsylvania where he remained for approximately 10 months. In spite of Smith’s history of child abuse, and his need for continued treatment,

Murphy continued to permit Smith’s contact with children. While at St. Teresa’s, Smith sent a letter to Murphy describing his gifts and
accomplishments in “working with young people.”

In December 1986, Smith was placed on a leave of absence yet again. This leave of absence continued for almost a year while Smith was returned to residential psychological therapy.

In January 1987, Diocesan records indicated that the treatment facility informed Murphy that Smith suffered from a “driven, compulsive, and long-standing” obsession with sexually assaulting children. The facility warned that since his first treatment in 1984, Smith had not stopped sexually assaulting children and that interdiction was needed.

These secret Diocesan records obtained by the Grand Jury pursuant to a subpoena showed that, while in treatment, Smith admitted to sexually molesting at least fifteen children. Smith stated that all of his victims were boys, some as young as seven. Smith had raped them anally and orally.

This information was provided to Murphy in November 1987. That same month, Smith was
discharged from the facility.

In spite of Smith’s confession to sexually violating at least fifteen prepubescent boys, Murphy assigned Smith to the parish of Saint Joseph’s in Warren on December 7, 1987.

Approximately three months later, in March 1988, Father Glenn Whitman wrote a letter to Smith and advised him of recent conduct that placed him in violation of his aftercare agreement with St. Luke’s Institute. Regardless, Smith continued in ministry at Saint Joseph’s with the approval of
Murphy, and, beginning in 1990, Trautman.

On July 25, 1990, Whitman wrote a memo to Trautman and noted two known parishes affected by Smith’s abuse. He also wrote that “The number of victims is not clearly known.” The same day, Trautman wrote his own memo regarding Smith. In this document, Trautman wrote that he had met with Smith about his problems and that Smith was a person of “candor and sincerity.” Trautman noted that after another year and a half he would consider a new assignment for Smith because he wanted Smith to complete his aftercare and was fearful of future litigation.

Reverend Michael G. Barletta

Biographical Information

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1939
YEAR OF DEATH: Unknown
ORDINATION: May 19, 1966

Employment/Assignment History

6/04/1966 – 5/30/1975 Secondary Education Kennedy Catholic High School, Hermitage, PA
6/04/1966 – 6/03/1970 Weekend Asst. Sacred Heart, Sharon, PA
6/03/1970 – 6/30/1975 Weekend Asst. St. Joseph, Sharon, PA

1975 Teen Action Club at Cathedral Preparatory, Erie, PA
5/30/1975 – 9/07/1994 Secondary Education Erie Cathedral Preparatory HS
5/30/1975 – 9/07/1994 Weekend Assistant, St Luke’s, Erie, PA
9/07/1994 – 8/01/1995 Sabbatical, Other Sabbatical at Southdown Treatment Center Toronto, Canada for Psychological Treatment
8/01/1995 – 2/28/2002 Dioceses Office, Catholic Charities, Erie, PA
8/01/1995 – 2/28/2002 Dioceses Office, Office of Matrimonial Concerns, Erie, PA
8/01/1995 – 2/28/2002 Resident St. Patrick’s Resident, Erie, PA
2/28/2002 Retired

Summary

The Grand Jury received several documents describing Father Michael Barletta’s behavior and also heard the testimony of a retired priest who witnessed Barletta with his genitalia exposed in the presence of a child under the age of eighteen years old.

This incident occurred between 1969 and 1970. Specifically, on a Saturday afternoon at St Joseph’s church in Sharon,

Barletta was scheduled to hear confessions along with fellow priest Father John Fischer. When Barletta failed to arrive, Fischer went looking for him. Fischer testified that he walked in on Barletta and a young high school student in Barletta’s locked private chambers.

Upon entering the room, Fischer observed this young student totally naked from the waist down, with his genitalia exposed. As Fischer withdrew from Barletta’s room, he observed the child attempting to pull up his underwear and pants while Barletta stood in the corner and watched.

Fischer did not call the police nor notify Barletta’s supervisor. Instead, Fischer testified that he reported the incident to a fellow priest and to Bishop Watson, head of the Erie Diocese, two months later. He recalled that Monsignor Hastings dismissed his report of Barletta and the naked child.

He also recalled his meeting with Watson and testified that both Hastings and Watson brushed him off and told him to, “Go home, be a good priest.”

Fischer also testified that when he told his fellow priests about Barletta and the child, they laughed it off. Not long after this incident, Barletta was re-assigned to Erie Cathedral Preparatory.


Reverend Dennis Chludzinski

Biographical Information

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1946
YEAR OF DEATH: N/A
ORDINATION: May 14, 1976

Employment/Assignment History

6/05/1976 – 6/02/1977 Sacred Heart, Sharon, PA
6/03/1977 – 1/23/1978 Holy Rosary, Erie, PA
1/24/1978 – 6/30/1979 Leave of Absence
7/01/1979 – 8/24/1980 Unassigned / Under Father Kelly’s Supervision
8/25/1980 – 6/00/1984 Faculty at Villa Maria High School Erie, PA

St. Benedict’s Academy Erie, PA
Mercyhurst Preparatory Erie, PA
6/00/1984 – 10/08/1984 Attending Gannon University, Our Lady of Mercy
10/09/1985 – 8/31/1986 No Information provided by the Diocese of Erie
9/01/1986 - 8/02/1987 Chaplain, Sisters Community at Mercyhurst College, Hamot Medical Center

Summary

The Grand Jury reviewed the files of the Diocese of Erie with respect to Father Dennis Chludzinski. The record contained evidence that the Diocese became aware of sexual misconduct by Chludzinski as early as 1984 that occurred while he was on the faculty of Villa Maria High School.

In notarized testimony to the Diocese of Erie, Chludzinski admitted that in 1984, while he was assigned as a Chaplain at Mercyhurst High School, he had inappropriate sexual contact with an 18-year-old boy in his senior year. He stated that the abuse occurred in 1984, possibly extending into 1985.

In a letter dated January 30, 1991, addressed to Bishop Donald Trautman and detailing his progress in therapy, Chludzinski admitted that he and a friend engaged in sexual contact with an 18-year-old male from his high school. This included mutual masturbation and oral sex. The sexual contact occurred approximately four times.

Similarly, in notarized testimony, Chludzinski admitted that after being granted a leave from the Chaplain position at Mercyhurst High School, he became sexually involved with a 14-year-old boy for approximately nine months. He stated that this abuse occurred in 1984 and possibly in 1985.

The victim said that Chludzinski introduced him to his homosexual lifestyle.

Finally, a letter dated July 26, 2004, to Monsignor Robert J. Smith, Vicar General, from Monsignor Mark L. Bartchak reported that a father recently discovered that Chludzinski had molested his young son years ago during a camping trip. A file note dated September 20, 2004,

Reverend Gregory P. Furjanic

Biographical Information

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1945
YEAR OF DEATH: N/A
ORDINATION: Unknown

Employment/Assignment History

1985 Staff, Kennedy Catholic High School
1985 - Unknown Unknown duties, St. Anthony of Padua Sharon, PA

1987 – Unknown Residing in a Convent at 1039 East 27th Street., Erie PA
7/08/1996 Faculties removed
2003 – Unknown Croatian Franciscan Friars, Chicago, IL.
2005 - Unknown Lutheran Social Services, St. Petersburg, FL

Summary

Reverend Gregory P. Furjanic served in the St. Anthony of Padua parish as a religious Friar attached to the Croatian Franciscan Friars out of Chicago, Illinois.

At that time, the Diocese of Erie permitted an outside religious order priest to handle the ministry in one of their parishes. The Diocese retained minimal paperwork on Furjanic, since he was technically not one of their priests.

In 2005, there was an accusation made against Furjanic related to an incident that occurred in the early 1970s. The second incident occurred in the mid-1980s.

Then, the records showed that in the 1990s an accusation against Furjanic came into the Diocese.

The Diocese sent Furjanic to the Erie Ecclesia center for counseling and then on to the St. Luke’s Institute for advanced counseling. His case was ultimately forwarded to the Congregation for Institutions of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life.

On July 8, 1996, the Congregation removed Furjanic’s priestly authority.

The Grand Jury learned that one of Furjanic’s victims later took his own life.

In 2005, an individual from Lutheran Social Services in St. Petersburg, Florida contacted Father Robert Smith, Vicar General of the Diocese of Erie, to investigate Furjanic’s history.

Furjanic had allegedly attempted to obtain religious credentials in Mobile, Alabama and in St. Petersburg, but was rejected based upon his past history. It was documented that Furjanic represented himself as a clergy member associated with Lutheran Ministry and had the title “Reverend” on his business cards. 

Father Robert E. Hannon

Biographical Information

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1926
YEAR OF DEATH: 2006
ORDINATION: May 27, 1954

Employment/Assignment History

6/03/1954 – 2/03/1955 Assistant Pastor, Holy Rosary, Erie, PA,
2/03/1955 – 3/27/1957 Assistant Pastor, Sacred Heart, Sharon, PA
3/27/1957 – 2/03/1958 Assistant Pastor, St. Boniface, Kersey, PA
Resident Pastor (Hacherl) asked to have Hannon Removed
2/03/1958– 5/31/1958 Assistant Pastor, St Luke’s, Erie, PA
Resident Pastor (Goodill) asked to have Hannon Removed
5/31/1958 – 6/12/1965 Administrator, Sacred Heart, Genesee, PA
9/01/1959 – N/A Appointed Assistant Director of Lay Retreats for the Diocese
6/12/1965 – 6/4/1966 Holy Cross, Brandy Camp, PA
6/04/1966 – N/A Administrator, St. Mathew, Erie, PA
6/06/1966 – 6/16/1967 Administrator, St. Cyprian, Waterford, PA
6/16/1967 – 6/01/1979 Pastor, St. Mathew in the Wood, Erie, PA
4/13/1978 Requests transfer to Diocese of Hawaii
6/01/1979 Released to Diocese of Hawaii
9/19/1979 – 7/18/1980 Asst. Pastor, St. John the Apostle, HI
7/18/1980 – 6/1/1981 Associate Pastor, St. Cattistus, Kane, PA
6/01/1981 Associate Pastor, St. Elizabeth, Aiea, HI
4/26/1984 Holy Trinity Church, Honolulu, HI
7/17/1984 Incardinated into Diocese of Hawaii
10/20/2003 – 1/16/2006 Residence at Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, Diocese of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
1/16/2006 Death Announcement

Summary

Father Robert Hannon was a Roman Catholic Priest who was posted in several states and abused children in each Diocese to which he was assigned.

 In 1962, he began his ministry in the Diocese of Erie, where he was assigned until 1978. At that time, Hannon turned his
attention toward the Diocese of Hawaii.

In 2003, in response to the John Jay College study on clergy sexual abuse, the Diocese of Erie acknowledged the existence of eight known victims of Hannon’s sexual assaults.

The Grand Jury has found from subpoenaed documents that as early as 1986 that the Diocese of Hawaii, and possibly the Diocese of Erie as well, knew that Father Hannon had admittedly abused at least twenty youths between twelve and nineteen years of age.

This admission came to light while Hannon was receiving treatment for his behavior at Foundation House, which is a psychiatric facility operated by servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico. Documentation was found in the subpoenaed files discussing which Diocese was going to foot the bill for Hannon’s extensive treatment.

Of the eight victims acknowledged by the Diocese of Erie, one is categorized as “claim denied, not verified” based solely upon a denial by Hannon himself. That victim, Hannon’s only known female victim, was abused in Hawaii by Hannon on one of his many trips to the islands before he was incardinated into the Diocese of Hawaii in 1979.

This abuse occurred in approximately 1974 while Hannon was visiting Victim #1’s parents in Hawaii. Victim #1 claims that while Hannon was tucking her and her sister into bed, he fondled her underneath her underpants.

Victim #1 stated that this abuse happened more than once but she could not state a number of times she was abused.

 In 2004, this female victim was interviewed by a professional chosen by the Diocese of Hawaii.

Ms. Barbara Mullen, who worked in that Diocese with Victim Assistance for Catholic Charities, interviewed Victim #1 in February of 2004. It was the professional opinion of Mullen and Rev. Gary Secor from Hawaii that Victim #1’s claims against Hannon were “extremely credible.” Nonetheless, the Diocese of Erie sided with Hannon because he had previously admitted to abusing only boys.

On May 5, 2004, Hannon denied having ever abused any females stating, “They do not have a penis.”

Much, if not all, of Hannon’s abuse came to light only after he was incardinated into the Diocese of Hawaii. This is why he received most of his professional counseling in the western part of the United States.

The subpoenaed documents supplied to the Grand Jury contain voluminous correspondence between the two Dioceses discussing which was responsible for the costs of Hannon’s care and pension. Also contained in this file is the correspondence between Hannon and the Diocese of Erie. These letters consist of Hannon’s apologies for all the trouble he has caused and acknowledgment of the funds sent back to the Erie Diocese by Hannon.

These funds were sent to Erie to be applied toward financial settlements with his victims. In one such handwritten document, Hannon apologized to Bishop Trautman and thanked him for his phone call prior to Hannon’s annual flight to Erie.

Hannon expressed his concerns about airport security to Trautman and wrote that Trautman’s call reminded him that canceling his trip to
Erie was “a good thing – to avoid any warrants.”

As a result of Hannon’s denial, Victim #1 was sent a letter by the law firm of Quinn, Buseck, Leemhuis, Toohey and Kroto, Inc. This is the law firm that represented the Diocese of Erie on January 3, 2005, when the letter was sent. In that document,

Victim #1 was told that the Erie Review Board could not verify any of her allegations made against Hannon. The Diocese would agree to provide four to six months of counseling to assist her in reconciling her present situation, however. Attorney Kroto still works for the Diocese to this day.

Hannon’s victims were, in most cases, the children of parishioners and/or alter servers.

By his own admission, he would congratulate his altar servers after mass with a friendly hug and “a little green”, as Hannon referred to cash. This hug and gift of money soon grew into an ostensible friendship between Hannon and his victims that helped pave the way for their exploitation.

Another one of Hannon’s methods was to ingratiate himself with his victims’ families. Hannon was charming enough to get himself invited into his victims’ homes to have drinks with their parents and even be invited to stay the night. Once the other adults were asleep, Hannon would molest his victims while their parents slept.

Another one of Hannon’s tactics was to take the children of parents he had befriended to his residence at the rectory for “sleepovers”, where he would have unfettered access to the children.

The following is a brief recitation of Hannon’s eight known victims within the Diocese of Erie. It is unknown to what extent, if any, the Diocese ever informed law enforcement officials about Hannon’s conduct.

Victim #1, as detailed above, was Hannon’s only known female victim. She was six to seven years old when Hannon fondled her. The Diocese of Hawaii found her claim to be credible. But the Diocese of Erie did not and only offered to counsel her for four to six months.

Victim #2 was sixteen years old at the time of his sexual assault in the mid-1970’s. Hannon testified at Victim #2’s military court martial trial that he performed oral sex on Victim #2 at least twelve times when he was an altar server at Hannon’s parish. Victim #2 was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to federal prison;

Victim #3 was twelve years old at the time Hannon fondled his genitals. The Diocese and Victim #3 came to a $20,000 settlement in 2002.

Very little is documented by the Diocese about Victim #4, only that Bishop Trautman found his claim to be a “good report.” Trautman notes that Hannon abused Victim #4 for over one-and-a-half years. Trautman offered to personally counsel Victim #4.

Victim #5 was fifteen to sixteen years old in 1978–1979 when Hannon abused him. Details of his abuse were not found in the Diocesan files. The Diocese settled with Victim #5 for $5,000 on November 14, 2003, however. Also found in the Diocese files was a copy of a check written to the Diocese of Erie by Hannon dated November 3, 2003 in the amount of $5,000.

Victim #6 was eight to ten years old in the late 1950’s when Hannon befriended him, took him on trips, and engaged him in oral sex. This victim first notified the Diocese of Erie of his abuse in 1993, several years after Hannon went to Hawaii.

Victim #7 was approximately nine years old when Hannon began molesting him in 1976. His abuse lasted until 1981. Hannon endeared himself to Victim #7’s family and was invited to their home for meals, holidays, and sleep-overs. Over these years, Hannon sexually abused Victim #7 late at night and forced him to pose in explicit positions that Hannon then photographed. Victim #7’s parents became aware of Hannon’s acts in 1981 and called for a meeting with the Bishop. This meeting never happened and Victim #7’s parents let the matter drop. In 1995, Victim #7 and his family settled with the Diocese of Erie for $39,000.

Victim #8 was approximately eleven years old in the early 1970’s when Hannon abused him. Hannon fondled him, had oral sex with him, and penetrated Victim #8’s anus with his fingers. This abuse all occurred while Victim #8 worked as an altar server and performed cleaning duties at Hannon’s parish. Victim #8 reported his abuse to Bishop Trautman in July 2006. Trautman noted that he assured Victim #8 and his wife that “the priest accused of molesting him has long died.” In reality, Hannon had only passed away six months prior.

These eight are only the known victims of Father Hannon. Hannon admitted to abusing at least twenty victims, which leads the Grand Jury to conclude that there were many more, as yet unknown, victims, both in the Diocese of Erie and in Hawaii.

The investigation was unable to uncover the identities and experiences of these additional victims. This is due, in part, to the fact that the Grand Jury did not have access to the pertinent files from the Diocese of Hawaii.

Hannon passed away on January 16, 2006, while in residence at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in the Diocese of Hawaii. He apparently remained in the good graces of both the Dioceses of Erie and Hawaii at the time of his death.

Father Jerry (John) Kucan

Biographical Information

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1924
YEAR OF DEATH: 2010
ORDINATION: June 24, 1951

Employment/Assignment History

1952-1954 St. Anthony’s, Sharon, PA
1954-1961 St. Joseph’s, Bethlehem, PA
1961-1972 St. Mary’s, Steelton, PA
1972-1973 Our Lady of Peace Friary, Beaver Falls, PA
1973-1977 St. Anthony’s, Sharon, PA
1977-1978 Sacred Heart, Milwaukee, WI
1978-1979 Beaver Falls Friary, Beaver Falls, PA
1979-1982 St. Mary’s, Steelton, PA
1982-1985 St. Jerome’s, Chicago, IL
1985-1986 Sacred Heart, Milwaukee, WI
1986-1988 St. Anthony’s, Chicago, IL
1988-1994 At. Augustine’s, West Allis, WI
1994-1995 Sacred Heart, Chicago, IL
1995-2005 St. Anthony’s Friary, Chicago, IL

Summary

In February of 2005, a thirty-nine-year-old man wrote a letter to the Diocese of Erie in which he stated that he had attended St. Anthony’s School in Sharon, Pennsylvania and that in 1974 he began serving midnight mass.

Victim #1 stated that “Father Jerry” began an inappropriate relationship with him at that time. Victim #1 wrote that Father Jerry gave him a St. Christopher necklace as a gift and soon afterward the inappropriate behavior began. The letter said that Kucan instructed Victim #1 to serve morning mass before school, at which time the behavior continued.

Victim #1 wrote that he would be called out of class at times, where he would meet with Father Jerry and a Brother who wore a brown robe. These “meetings” would take place in a room on the second floor of the gym.

Victim #1 would go to confession weekly to confess his sins and that Kucan would tell him that the slate was wiped clean.

Victim #1 stated in his letter that he was now having trouble dealing with many issues such as trust, intimacy, and questioning of his sexual orientation.

Victim #1 asked if the Diocese had an assistance program available for those suffering from such emotional
difficulties.

In March of 2005, Bishop Donald Trautman wrote back to Victim #1. The Bishop stated that St. Anthony’s Croatian Catholic Church in Sharon was staffed by Croatian Franciscan priests at the time in question and that “Father Jerry” could have been Father Jerry Kucan.

The Bishop stated that after he received Victim #1’s letter, he called and spoke to Father Marko Puljic of the Croatian Franciscan Custody of the Holy Family of the United States and Canada.

The Bishop said that he read Victim #1’s letter to Puljic and that he asked Puljic to call Victim #1. The Bishop stated that he was sending Victim #1’s letter, along with the Bishop’s return letter, to Puljic.

The Bishop then stated that Kucan was not a priest of the Erie Diocese and the resolution of the matter rested with the Croatian Franciscans. The Bishop then wrote that Victim #1 should contact Catholic Charities in Dallas, where he lived at the time, to help with his emotional difficulties. The Bishop included a phone number for the Director of that office.

In June of 2005, Father Puljic received a letter from Attorney Richard Serbin of the Law Firm Serbin, Kovacs & Nypaver of Altoona, PA. The letter advised Puljic that the firm had been retained by Victim #1 on this matter and described Kucan’s “inappropriate behavior” in detail.

This letter stated that Victim #1 was eight years old when he met Kucan and that Kucan thereafter molested the boy on a regular basis. This letter stated that Kucan would take Victim #1 to the second floor of the gym, where Kucan would perform oral sex on the eight-year-old.

The letter also alleged that Kucan would have a brother in a brown robe present on some occasions and that this brother would also perform oral sex on Victim #1. The letter stated that Victim #1 was currently undergoing counseling.

The letter concluded with Attorney Serbin stating that he had represented individuals that had been victims of clergy abuse for eighteen years. He stated that it was his policy to “attempt amicable resolution of all claims on behalf of my clients prior to filing suit. I have been able to achieve settlements on behalf of abuse victims with multiple Dioceses and religious communities. I have found that when there is a sincere desire on the part of the church leaders
to correct wrongs of the past, recognition of the long-term effects of clergy abuse upon victims, and reasonableness on part of all parties, that these cases can be resolved without resorting to the courts. It is my sincere hope that the Croatian Franciscans will accept responsibility for Father Jerry Kucan, and do the right thing by [Victim #1] in fairly compensating him for the horrible injuries that he has suffered as a result of his abuse.”

It appears as though Victim #1 did attend counseling at the Catholic Charities in Dallas, which was set up by the Diocese of Erie.

In 2016, Victim #1 wrote to the Erie Diocese seeking to obtain counseling/progress notes that his Dallas counselor had provided to the Erie Diocese.

On January 8, 2007, Vicar General, Monsignor Robert J. Smith received a letter from a woman who stated that her husband had been molested by a priest in the mid-1950’s when he served as an altar boy at St. Anthony’s on Idaho Street in Sharon.

The letter stated that her husband’s cousins were also victims. This writer stated in the letter that her husband committed suicide in 1993 after a long struggle with depression.

She had spoken to her husband’s therapist after his death and the therapist told her that her husband’s severe depression was a direct result of being molested at St. Anthony’s as a child.

The writer stated that she has heard that other men who were molested at St. Anthony’s had committed suicide. She stated that she knew that the
offending priest was now dead, but that the Catholic Church was not excused for the abuse.

She concluded her letter by asking Monsignor Smith how she could see any other reports on cases
similar to this.

On January 16, 2007, Monsignor Smith responded. In his letter, Monsignor Smith writes that he was very sorry to hear about the molestation of the writer’s husband as a young boy in the 1950s and his subsequent suicide in 1993. The letter then stated that Monsignor Smith was not aware of the priest who may have committed the crime against her husband.

The letter stated that St. Anthony’s was staffed by priests from the Croatian Franciscan Custody of the Holy Family and that the priest who abused her husband most probably was from that order. The letter contained the name and address of Father Marko Puljic for her to contact.

The letter then addresses apparent requests made by the writer. Smith wrote “Regarding your request for reports of other like incidents in the parish, two others have come to our attention over the years. The first involved a Croatian Franciscan assigned to the parish in the early 70s. The report came to us in February 2005. The Diocese notified the Croatian Provincial on March 1st, got back to the individual several days later and offered him counseling assistance. The second incident involved another Croatian Franciscan. It allegedly happened in the mid-80’s. One of our Episcopal Vicars serving in the Western Vicariate was made aware of it, reported it to then Bishop Michael Murphy and the priest was removed immediately from the ministry.”

Smith was contacted by a social service agency in Florida after this second Croatian Franciscan had applied for a secular position there. Smith called the Director and advised them that a complaint of abuse had been filed against the individual, that he had been removed from the ministry when it was reported, and that he had left the religious order.

The letter concluded with this paragraph: “Bishop Trautman has been our bishop since 1990. He has been vigilant and aggressive in dealing with this tragic issue. Sexual abuse is abhorrent to all of us and when committed by a trusted member of the church, doubly so.”

A file-note contained within the files claimed that on January 25, 2007, Bishop Trautman notified Attorney Frank Kroto about the recent complaint from Victim #1, as well as a complaint from another man. The file note states that Bishop Trautman asked Attorney Kroto to inform District Attorney Bradley Foulk of the complaints, the identity of the priests, and the names of the alleged victims. Kroto was also asked to assure the DA that the Diocese would comply with any requests for additional facts and information.

A file note showed that on July 31, 2007, Vicar General Smith wrote that he spoke with Father Marko Puljic to get an update on Kucan and to determine when he was removed from the ministry. Puljic said that Father Kucan was taken out of the ministry in March 2005, when the Order received its first complaint against him. The Order settled with Victim #1 filing the complaint. The file note also indicated that Kucan was then in his mid-eighties and in the early stages of dementia.

There is nothing contained in this file that shows that any actual correspondence between the Church and the District Attorney occurred.

Reverend John L. Murray

Biographical Information

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1922
YEAR OF DEATH:
ORDINATION: May 15, 1947

Employment/Assignment History

5/31/1947 – 5/28/1955 Sacred Heart, Parochial Vicar with Residence, Sharon, PA
5/28/1955 – 6/11/1960 St. Paul, Parochial Vicar with Residence, Erie, PA
8/25/1959 – 6/11/1960 St. Paul, Parochial Vicar with Residence. Special Duties, Part-Time Faculty, Erie Cathedral Preparatory, Erie, PA
6/11/1960 – 8/01/1966 Special Ministry, Erie Cathedral Preparatory, Erie, PA
8/27/1966 – 1/31/1969 Special Ministry, DuBois Central Catholic HS, Special Duties, Headmaster, DuBois, PA
6/16/1967 – 10/15/1968 St. Bernard, Administration with Residence, Falls Creek, PA
10/15/1968 – 5/26/1972 Health Leave
5/26/1972 – 1/04/1974 Special Ministry, Vicar Assistant with Residence, Our Lady Queen of the Americas, Conneaut Lake, PA
1/04/1974 – 6/01/1979 Pastor with Residence, Our Lady Queen of the Americas, Conneaut Lake, PA
6/01/1979 – 10/15/1985 Pastor with Residence, St. Matthew in the Wood, Erie, PA
10/15/1985 – 6/01/1987 Sick Leave
6/01/1987 Restricted, Erie, PA

Summary

The Diocese of Erie received reports that Father John L. Murray sexually molested young boys in a church rectory before serving mass, as well as in recreational settings such as the lake shore.

A review of his Diocesan file revealed that, as a result, the Diocese paid thousands of dollars in therapy fees and civil settlements. Two of his victims each received monetary settlements in the amount of $25,000 each.

The first allegation of sexual abuse against Murray was made in 1967.

It was reported that in the summer of 1966, Murray, while in a social setting with the victim’s family at the shore, allegedly fondled the young boy in the water and on shore. This incident was brought to the attention of the boy’s parents and Bishop John F. Whealon in 1967. There was no indication
in the file that law enforcement was notified.

Whealon’s personal notes revealed that he confronted Murray with the accusation and spoke with the victim’s father on a number of occasions. Murray partially denied the allegation by telling the Bishop that the victim has “an overactive imagination,” and that any touching was accidental due to normal roughhousing with the boy.

The notes further indicated that the victim’s father met with Murray and Murray apologized to him for the incident.

The records revealed that Whealon convinced the family that nothing could be done in this case. Whealon wrote that the victim’s mother and father have “no doubt that this priest (Murray) did something wrong, in the water and on the shore.”

Whealon recorded the father as saying, “If it was the first time, Father Murray is now so frightened that it will not happen again.”

In April of 1985, Murray was charged by the Pennsylvania State Police with one count each of indecent assault and corruption of minors. He eventually pled guilty to both charges, was sentenced to twelve months’ probation and fined. This incident was the result of Murray sexually molesting a 12-year-old boy who was preparing to serve mass in the church rectory.

One year later, the church paid the victim’s family a settlement in the amount of $25,000.

As a result of Murray’s second instance of child molestation, the Diocese disciplined him by removing his priestly faculties in 1985. While awaiting sentencing on his criminal charges, the Diocese sent Murray to two treatment facilities. After several years of treatment, paid for by the Diocese, Murray was retired and moved to his family home in Philadelphia. As of 2007, he was still receiving money to pay for his therapy.

Finally, in 2016, Bishop Lawrence Persico received the latest complaint against Murray. This incident came to the attention of the Diocese when the victim was visiting the Conneaut Lake area. According to Persico’s handwritten file note, the victim, now 55 years of age, was a 12-year-old boy in 1973. He was cutting grass at Our Lady of the Americas church where Murray was the Pastor.

Murray allegedly grabbed the child’s genitals through the boy’s clothes.
Persico wrote to the victim on September 15, 2016 and advised him that the Diocese notified the Erie County District Attorney’s Office and reported the incident to Childline. He further advised that Murray was out of ministry, was not permitted to function as a priest and offered to speak with the victim should he have any further questions.

Father Jan Olowin

Biographical Information

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1942
YEAR OF DEATH: Unknown
ORDINATION: May 18, 1968

Employment/Assignment History

1966 Jesuit Missions, Juliaca, Peru
1967 Migrant Ministry, Erie, PA
6/16/1968 – 9/02/1970 St. Patrick, Erie, PA
6/16/1968 – 9/02/1970 Faculty, Cathedral Preparatory, Erie, PA
9/02/1970 – 3/09/1984 St. Patrick, Erie, PA
8/16/1971 – 1/31/1983 Chaplain, Soldiers and Sailors Home
3/09/1984 – 8/25/1986 St. Adalbert, Sharon, PA
8/25/1986 – 11/07/1992 St. Joseph, Oil City, PA
11/07/1992 – 6/28/1998 St. George, Erie, PA
6/28/1998 – 12/21/1998 Sabbatical, American College of Louvain
12/21/1998 – 6/05/1999 St. Joseph, Sharon, PA
6/06/1999 – 12/31/2007 Chaplain, FCI McKean, Bradford, PA
1/01/2008 – 8/21/2008 Sabbatical
8/22/2008 – 8/31/2012 St. Michael, Emlenton, PA
8/22/2008 – 8/31/2012 Chaplain, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Clarion, PA
10/21/2016 – 11/04/2016 Temporary Parochial Administrator, St. Elizabeth Seton, Sun City, AZ

Summary

The Diocese of Erie personnel file for Father Jan Olowin contained a document entitled “Summary of Phone Conversation.” It was the memorialization of a telephone conversation that was written by Robert J. Smith, Vicar General, on May 27, 1993.

The document recorded the alleged abuse of a victim by Olowin. Victim #1. It is the Diocesan notes regarding a phone call Smith had with Victim #2, who is a victim of clergy sex abuse himself.

These notes record some of Victim #2’s abuse and record Victim #2 informing the Diocese of his friend’s (Victim #1) abuse.

Victim #2 said he was disillusioned with the Church when Olowin was appointed pastor of St. George. Victim #2 explains that Victim #3, who was also a friend of his, was sexually accosted by Olowin while on a trip to Mexico. The document does not record the age of Victim #3, only that he was young at the time of the assault.

Victim #2 tells Smith that Victim #3 was able to fight off Olowin’s sexual advances by pushing him away. Sometime later Victim #3 shared the incident with Victim #2, who subsequently shared the story with Smith in 1993.

On November 4, 2016, Bishop Lawrence Persico wrote a letter to Olowin, now retired in Peoria, Arizona, indicating that he had learned of an allegation of clerical misconduct made several decades ago against Olowin.

Persico’s letter did not mention details, but it referenced a phone call that Persico and Olowin had the day before. The Grand Jury can infer that Persico
outlined Olowin’s offenses in this call and articulated the reason for the letter in greater detail. This letter officially restricted Olowin from public exercise of all priestly ministry until further notice.

The Grand Jury was unable to determine from the subpoenaed files what prompted Persico to restrict Olowin’s priestly faculties twenty-three years after Olowin’s name was first associated with sexual abuse.

In a later production of files to the Grand Jury, a letter from the Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona to Olowin was found. This document was dated November 18, 2016, and was written to Olowin and carbon copied Persico in Erie. It thanked Olowin for his service and informed him that, due to a letter received from Persico,

Olowin would be restricted from all ministry until the matter of the alleged abuse was resolved.

Father Stephen E. Jeselnick

Biographical Information

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1951
YEAR OF DEATH: N/A
ORDINATION: May 20, 1977

Employment/Assignment History

5/01/1976 Associate, Our Lady of the Americas, Conneaut, PA
6/03/1977 Granted full faculties of the Diocese of Erie
9/06/1977 Faculty, Venango Christian High School w/residence at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Oil City, PA
2/09/1987 Requests new assignment/residence. Wanted campus ministry
6/23/1978 Associate, St. Brigid and Campus Minister, Allegheny College w/Father William Karg
1/12/1980 Requests to be assigned to Notre Dame, IN (Holy Cross)
6/19/1980 Associate, St. Michael, Greenville, PA
7/31/1980 Appointed Defender of the Bond/Advocate for the Tribunal
3/31/1981 Bishop Watson agrees/recommends to release to Notre Dame, IN
6/02/1981 Accepted into Graduate Candidate Program at Notre Dame
11/06/1982 Withdraws voluntarily from Holy Cross, IN (Novitiate)
12/03/1982 Permitted to minister in Denver, CO, for a six-month assignment by Bishop Murphy
12/10/1982 Accepted by Archbishop Casey, Denver, CO
12/18/1982 Assigned to St. Mary’s, Littleton, CO
Spring 1983 Re-assigned to Shrine of St. Anne, Arvada, CO
3/18/1983 Requests to enter/serve as Military Chaplain
4/08/1983 Bishop Murphy approves an appointment to Military
5/13/1983 Requests incardination into Diocese of Colorado Springs, CO
9/12/1985 Incardination denied; Requests Leave of Absence
10/10/1985 Colorado Springs withdraws their faculties
11/5/1985 Requests permission to enter Air Force to be Chaplain and Additional Leave of Absence
4/1/1986 Requests to enter Archdiocese of Military
8/11/1986 Residence at Ecclesia Center, Erie, PA
10/03/1986 Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine, DuBois, PA; Chaplain, DuBois Medical Center; and Father Brugger’s weekend assistant at Sigel and Corsica, PA
4/21/1987 Archdiocese Military endorses for Active Duty
11/18/1996 Military Archdiocese to facilitate the change from active to  reserve; the following month the Military endorses for inactive reserve duty
7/14/1997 Veterans Administration Hospital, Baltimore, MD
5/01/2014 Faculties revoked

Summary

Father Stephen E. Jeselnick began service in the Diocese of Erie in May 1977, and it is unclear when he officially retired.

A review of the Diocese’s files on Jeselnick reflected no abuse of children under the age of 18 and therefore he was not reportable under the guidelines established by the Church in 2002. This “Charter for the Protection of Young Children and Young People” was established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Jeselnick’s file only listed two known victims and both were over the age of legal adulthood. The same cannot be said, however, for three of Jeselnick’s victims who were not included in the Diocese’s files.

The Grand Jury heard in-person testimony from three members of a family who each testified to their abuse at the hands of Jeselnick. Their accounts of Jeselnick’s abuse included genital fondling, oral, and anal sex. This occurred in the late 1970’s when Jeselnick was stationed at St. Brigid in Meadville.

All three men and several of their sisters testified that Jeselnick and a previously unidentified Deacon would come to their house and get intoxicated
with their parents. Once the adults were sufficiently drunk, Jeselnick would find the boys, who were usually alone, and prey upon them.

The three men testified that their mother worked for the parish and would sometimes take the boys to work with her. Jeselnick would sexually violate them both at home and on church grounds, and this abuse still haunts them to this day.

No record of this family’s abuse was located in the Diocesan files because the abuse was never reported to the Diocese and these victims only came forward in 2017. When they did come forward, the Diocese directed them to the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office.

In early 2017, both the Diocese and its law firm had been notified that any and all incoming child sexual assault cases were to be referred to the attention of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. However, it was only after a family member reached out to a local newspaper reporter that they were referred to the Office of Attorney General.

In 2014 the newly appointed Bishop of Erie, Lawrence Persico, received a letter from Jeselnick requesting a letter of suitability for ministry. After reviewing his file and doing an internet search, Persico denied Jeselnick’s faculties as a priest a

Reverend Thomas C. Kelley

Biographical Information

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1943
YEAR OF DEATH: 2005
ORDINATION: December 21, 1967

Employment/Assignment History

7/25/1968 – 7/16/1972 Parochial Vicar, St. Peter Cathedral, Erie, PA
7/16/1972 – 3/17/1978 Special Ministry, St. Mark’s Seminary, Erie, PA
7/16/1972 – 5/05/1979 Weekend Asst., Our Lady of Mercy, Harborcreek, PA
3/17/1979 – 5/05/1979 Special Ministry, St. Mark’s Seminary, Erie, PA
5/05/1979 – 9/01/1985 Special Ministry, St. Mark’s Seminary, Erie, PA
9/01/1985 – 6/30/1989 Dean, North American College, Rome, Italy
8/28/1989 – 3/27/1990 Administrator, St. Michael, Greenville, PA
3/27/1990 – 6/15/1994 Pastor, St. Michael, Greenville, PA
3/01/1992 – 6/15/1994 Diocesan Review Board
6/15/1994 – 12/31/1995 Leave of Absence, Odessa, TX/Erie, PA
9/18/1995 – 9/22/1995 Psychological Assessment, Southdown Treatment Center,
Canada
4/1996 – 9/1996 Residential Treatment, Southdown Center, Aurora, Ontario,
Canada
9/06/1994 – 12/31/1996 Pastor, St. Agnes, Ft. Stockton, TX
12/31/1995 – 3/31/1995 Chaplain, Holy Faith Monastery
3/31/1996 – 11/25/1996 Assigned to Diocese of San Angelo, TX
11/25/1996 – 1/01/2001 Incarnated into Diocese of San Angelo, TX
2/21/2005 Death

Summary

Reverend Thomas C. Kelley served two different dioceses in two states, as well as in Europe, over the course of his 30-year career. He was accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with at least five victims and was named in a lawsuit that paid one sexual assault victim $34,500.

His victims of choice were eighteen to twenty-five-year-old males in high school or in seminary. Kelley engaged in mutual masturbation, oral, and anal sex with his victims.

Although the Diocesan records do not reflect which one of his victims’ complaints prompted the Diocese to send him to psychotherapy, in the fall of 1995 Kelley was sent to the Southdown Center in Aurora, Ontario, Canada. Southdown is an inpatient residential treatment facility that specializes in treating men and women in ministry.

Kelley was sent there for a week-long assessment period. Per this assessment, it was determined that Kelley should have a restricted ministry that kept him away from young parishioners. Kelley disagreed with this assessment and asked Bishop Trautman to send him to a different facility for a second opinion. 

A physician from DuBois, Pennsylvania saw Kelley in 1996 and in March of that year agreed with the course of action that Southdown recommended.

Soon afterward, Kelley was sent to Southdown for several months of treatment. After his release, Kelley traveled to Odessa, Texas to take some time off and meet with an old friend with whom he attended seminary. He reported to Trautman that he had reflected on his conduct while in Odessa and decided that he was not ready to quit serving God.

According to the documents, Kelley became interested in staying in active ministry in the West Texas area during this time period. Over the course of the next several years, Kelley spent most of his time in the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas as a priest inthat Diocese.

It was found that Bishop Trautman had told Kelley that if he returned to the Erie Diocese, he would need to be assigned a severely restricted ministry. Faced with this harsh restriction, Kelley asked to be assigned full time in Texas by permission of Trautman and Bishop Michael Pfeifer of the Diocese of San Angelo. Both Bishops agreed to Kelley’s request.

In their correspondence, Trautman and Pfeifer often referenced telephone conversations they had about Kelley and his troubled past.

During his visits to Erie during this period, Kelley also had some interaction with a licensed social worker and therapist in the Erie area. She would confer with Trautman, Kelley, and Pfeifer on Kelley’s treatment plan.

She questioned Kelley’s suitability to be a priest and, in an e-mail message to Trautman, she wrote, “If Tom Kelley has in fact been a predator, I think it
is time he is removed from the priesthood.” In another e-mail she advised Trautman that, “I think it is time to ensure that Tom Kelley (although in Texas) no longer abuses children.” She also criticized Pfeifer, writing, “it appears to me that he did not take responsibility to ensure the safety of those under his care.”
Kelley passed away in February 2005.

Editors Note: The following priest named in the report did not work in Mercer County, but according to the grand jury Reverend Gabriel Patil was assigned to the Diocese of Youngstown.

Reverend Gabriel Patil

Biographical Information

YEAR OF BIRTH: Unknown
YEAR OF DEATH: N/A
ORDINATION: 1972

Employment/Assignment History

6/3/1974 Permission to exercise mission within Diocese
Other assignments noted in Summary

Summary

Father Gabriel Patil, a priest of the Clerics Regular of St. Paul, known as the Barnabites, was given permission by Bishop Joseph McShea on June 3, 1974, to exercise his ministry within the Diocese of Allentown. The Diocese provided no other assignment history.

Correspondence between the Diocese and the Barnabites shows that, in 2003, a victim reported to the Diocese that he and four of his friends were abused by Patil.

The abuse occurred on the property of the Bethlehem Catholic High School during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when the victims were seven to nine years old.

The victim reported that he and the four other known victims were living near the high school at the time. Patil would invite the boys into his residence at the high school and play hide and seek with the boys. While playing hide and seek Patil would have the boys sit on his lap. Patil would open the boys’ pants and fondle their genitals.

One of the victims also reported that Patil had the victim undress in his presence. Patil leered at the victim as the victim tried on new clothes Patil had bought for the victim.

Lawsuits were filed but ultimately dismissed since the statutory limits had expired. At the time the abuse was reported and lawsuits filed,

Patil was a Provincial Superior at St. James in Ontario, Canada. Patil met with Bishop Cullen. Patil also inquired about insurance coverage from the Diocese against potential claims for damages in connection with the reported abuse.

The Diocese provided no insurance coverage, informing Patil that coverage is only provided to priests who are incardinated in the Diocese and, “as you know, the priests of the Barnabite Fathers are not incardinated in the Diocese of Allentown.”

Four months after receiving the report of abuse, the Diocese forwarded the information to the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office on March 5, 2004.

In the letter to the District Attorney’s Office, the attorney for the Diocese wrote It is important for you to note the following. Father Patil is not a priest of the Diocese of Allentown. Father Patil is a member of the Barnabite Fathers religious order, not under the supervision of the Diocese of Allentown.

Patil went on to serve as a priest in Buffalo, New York, Youngstown, Ohio, and then with a delegation in the country of India. In 2010, Patil requested that he be allowed to return to the Diocese and exercise his public ministry. The Diocese did not permit Patil to return.

In 2012, the Barnabite Fathers asked the Review Board of the Diocese to accept Patil’s case for review for suitability for ministry. The Diocese denied reviewing Patil’s case and informed the Barnabite Fathers they should establish their own review board. No further information was provided by the Diocese on Patil or his whereabouts.

Any disciplinary action was left to the discretion of Patil’s religious order.

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