2 priests in Erie Diocese relieved of duties

From staff reports

Two priests in the Erie Catholic Diocese have been relieved of their duties and are prohibited from having any contact with minors, according to the diocese.

The priests are the Rev. David Poulson, 64, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Cambridge Springs; and the Rev. Sean Kerins, 27, chaplain at Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage. Kerins is also assigned to Church of the Good Shepherd Parish in West Middlesex.

Poulson spent more than a decade as pastor at St. Michael Church in Fryburg after he was assigned there in 2000. He is a native of the former Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Oil City.

Criminal investigations are underway in both cases, and the diocese said in a press release Tuesday the two cases aren’t related.

The Cambridge Springs Police Department said Tuesday they were contacted about an alleged incident of sexual abuse of a minor that is reported to have occurred at the St. Anthony parish.

Police said they believe the allegations to be credible and that Poulson was specifically named and has been the main focus of the investigation.

The Most Rev. Lawrence T. Persico, bishop of Erie, has accepted Poulson’s permanent resignation as pastor at St. Anthony, and he has been removed from all his other assignments.

Poulson was also serving as chaplain at SCI, Cambridge Springs; bishop’s delegate for Mass in the Extraordinary Form; diocesan liaison to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal; and diocesan chaplain for the World Apostolate of Fatima.

Msgr. Robert Brugger, former pastor of St. George Parish, Erie, who retired last year, has been named parish administrator of Saint Anthony, effective immediately.

In the situation involving Kerins, the diocese’s Catholic Schools Office said it was informed late last month by Kennedy Catholic of a possible inappropriate communication from Kerins, a faculty member, to a student at Kennedy. Following school and diocesan policy, ChildLine and law enforcement were informed, and a preliminary independent investigation also was initiated, the diocese said.

Kerins was put on temporary administrative leave at that time

Now that the preliminary investigation has concluded, the diocese said it has determined that the series of text messages in question were inappropriate according to diocesan and school standards.

Persico has removed Kerins from his assignments at Kennedy Catholic and Good Shepherd Parish while law enforcement continues its investigation, the diocese said.

Persico said he was shocked and disappointed in both cases.

“My heart aches for the victims and their families,” he said. “Priests are rightly held to a high standard, so it was especially devastating for me to learn of both situations. I know all Catholics, including our priests, are deeply wounded by this behavior.”