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Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Diocese of Erie

Serving roughly 221,508 Catholics, the Diocese of Erie includes thirteen counties in northwestern Pennsylvania – Erie, Crawford, Mercer, Venango, Warren, Forest, Clarion, Jefferson, Elk, McKean, Clearfield, Cameron and Potter – and is divided into three sections known as the Eastern, Northern and Western Vicaries. The diocese is primarily rural, with approximately 6,400 students enrolled in Catholic elementary, middle and high school education.

In August 2018, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury uncovered evidence of child sexual abuse committed by priests in the Diocese of Erie and that several Diocesan administrators, including the Bishops, often dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to police, pressured law enforcement to terminate or avoid an investigation, or conducted their own biased investigating without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities. In the report, the Grand Jury highlights the wholesale institutional failure that endangered the welfare of children across Dioceses, noting examples of child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests within the Diocese of Erie –¬ including the cases of Fathers Chester "Chet" Gawronski, William Presley, and Thomas Smith. Read the complete 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.

Diocese of Erie Survivors’ Reparation Program

On February, 15, 2019, the Diocese of Erie launched their Independent Survivors’ Reparation Program to pay reparations to victims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy or laypersons affiliated with the Diocese. According to Church officials, the fund will be managed wholly independent of the Diocese by attorneys Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille Biros.

The fund will be open for six months, from Feb. 15, 2019 through Aug. 15, 2019. Only survivors of abuse by Diocesan clergy, volunteers or employees are eligible for this program. Survivors of abuse by Religious Clerics are not eligible.

  • The Program is purely voluntary; no individual is required to participate.
  • Individuals who have previously submitted a complaint of sexual abuse can seek compensation.
  • Individuals who previously settled their sexual abuse claims with the Diocese will not be permitted to participate.
  • Eligible claims will be paid within two weeks from the time that a submitted claim is deemed eligible.
  • New claim registration deadline: July 31, 2019
  • Deadline to complete submission materials: August 15, 2019

For more information, you can visit the Independent Survivors’ Reparation Program for the Diocese of Erie page. Before making such an important decision concerning such a serious and sensitive matter, we encourage all survivors of priest sexual abuse to consult with legal counsel before proceeding with a claim as part of these compensation programs in Pennsylvania.

You are not alone. We are here to help you.

From simply listening to your story without judgment to assistance navigating the complexities of compensation programs and statutes of limitations, we are ready to help Pennsylvania child sex abuse survivors find justice and healing. Our law firm of legal professionals and advocates has more than three decades of experience working with survivors of sexual abuse and litigating cases against Catholic dioceses and religious orders nationwide. Contact us today. Your information will remain completely confidential.

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Clergy Accused of Sexual Abuse in the Diocese of Erie

Click the name of an accused priest, cleric or diocesan employee from the list below for more details about their assignment history as well as, when available, pertinent biographical information, photo, and links to related news. All information has been collected from public sources.