In an internal diocese memo from Erie in northwestern Pennsylvania, a priest admitted to being “aroused” while tutoring a boy, hugging him and sharing sexually suggestive text messages with multiple boys.
The priest’s bishop admonished him to “cease and desist,” but Catholic Church leaders didn’t pass that information along to authorities until six years later – and only then in response to a grand jury subpoena.
The Rev. David Poulson resigned from the diocese this past February, three months before he was charged with sexually abusing two boys.
Poulson’s case is an example of how abuse and cover-up continue to plague the Catholic Church, even after the scandal first exploded into the national consciousness 16 years ago in Boston. Since then, the church has vowed to reform and paid out billions of dollars of parishioners' tithes to victims.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. It set procedures for addressing allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors and came after The Boston Globe's investigation into priest abuse and the ensuing national crisis.
Still, the scandals and cover-ups have continued. In multiple states, the church has resisted efforts to reform statute of limitations laws to allow people abused as children, sometimes decades ago, to seek compensation through civil lawsuits.
“It prevents more victims if we get exposure,” said Florida lawyer Michael Dolce, a survivor of child sex abuse who advocated for Florida to repeal its statute of limitations for such crimes. “It raises the information in the community as a whole by exposing the secrecy.”
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