A Catholic priest was arrested and charged Tuesday with sexually abusing at least two boys during his four decades in the Erie, Pennsylvania diocese and making one of them say confession after the alleged assaults.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the arrest of the 64-year-old Father David Poulson, of Oil City, as part of a statewide grand jury investigation. According to court records, Poulson is facing at least eight charges, including indecent assault and child endangerment for incidents dating to 2002.
Court records did not list an attorney for Poulson, and a phone call to a number listed for him was not answered Tuesday.
Prosecutors said Poulson, who resigned from the diocese in February, abused one of his victims in multiple church rectories more than 20 times while he served as an altar boy. Poulson would then require the boy to make confession to him and confess the sexual assault to receive absolution.
According to Church law, such a “confession” is invalid, and the priest would be excommunicated for the offense.
“This was the ultimate betrayal and manipulation by Poulson — he used the tools of the priesthood to further his abuse,” Shapiro wrote in an emailed release about the charges.
The allegations also state Poulson took that victim and another boy to a secluded hunting camp without electricity or running water, where he would watch horror movies with them on his laptop then assault them.
Prosecutors said the Erie Diocese had received complaints about what they say were Poulson’s “sexual predator tendencies” as far back as 2010, but did not report him to law enforcement until the grand jury issued a subpoena in September 2016.
The diocese produced a May 24, 2010, “secret memorandum” that showed leaders had received complaints about Poulson’s inappropriate contact with minors. The attorney general’s office release said the memo contained an admission from Poulson that he was “aroused” by a boy and shared sexually suggestive texts with other boys.
A diocese spokeswoman said in a voicemail she was preparing a statement on Poulson’s arrest.
Last month, the diocese released a list of priests and lay people who it had received credible accusations against over several decades. Poulson’s name was on that list.
Crux staff contributed to this report.