Boston Globe's 2002 Spotlight Article Cited in 12 Pennsylvania Priest Sexual Abuse Claims

The release of the Pennsylvania grand jury's report on sexual abuse claims against over 300 priests in six dioceses reminded people of an article released in 2002 by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team, which detailed decades of abuse within the Catholic Church in Boston. Despite the Pennsylvania grand jury's report being released 16 years later, the Boston Globe is referenced almost 20 times and in 12 cases, proving the impact of the Spotlight team's work. Below is a roundup of those references.

Father Francis J. Fromholzer

In the case of Father Francis J. Fromholzer, who is accused of sexually abusing two students while working as a teacher at Allentown Central Catholic High School, the abuse is said to have occurred during a weekend trip to the Poconos.

"Then we went - he laid out a blanket and he started kissing, feeling, put his finger in me. That hurt. It was confusing because - you were always told you were going to Hell if you let anybody touch you. But then you've got Father doing it," victim Juliann Bortz, spelled Julianne in the report, testified before the grand jury.

Bortz reported the abuse to multiple people within the church, but according to the report, it wasn't until the Boston Globe published its story about the Archdiocese of Boston that she was "ready to pursue reporting Fromholzer's criminal conduct to law enforcement." She reported it to the local police department, informing law enforcement that he still worked at a church with a grade school, and also reported it to the district attorney.

"Julianne told the Grand Jury that, if it were not for the clergy abuse being revealed in the Boston Archdiocese, she would not have come forward to report the abuse she endured," the report said.

Father Michael S. Lawrence

Father Michael Lawrence drew suspicion of pedophilic behavior as early as 1970 when a student evaluation described him as a man who had "a little too much interest in younger students." Lawrence admitted to sexually molesting a young boy in a confession to Monsignor Anthony Muntone, of the Diocese of Allentown.

After a series of complaints followed by reassignments, it wasn't until 2002 when three reporters at the Boston Globe used their platform to shed light on what was going on in Boston that it was decided Lawrence should leave the church.

"On January 6, 2002, the Boston Globe generated national publicity on the issue of child sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Boston. In February 2002, Lawrence wrote to Cullen. Lawrence stated that, 'in light of recent events and at the suggestion of Monsignor Alfred Schlert [of the Diocese of Allentown],' he wished to retire. Lawrence was granted a retirement and received a pension and health care benefits," the grand jury's report stated.

Father Chester Gawronski

Father Chester Gawronski became a Diocese of Erie priest in 1976 and 10 years later, in 1986, Bishop Michael Murphy, of the Diocese of Erie, was notified that he'd sexually abused a teen boy on multiple occasions from 1976 to 1977, according to the report. In 1987, similar complaints were made by other parents and an internal Diocesan memorandum indicated that the number of victims could be as high as 20.

Gawronski himself provided the Diocese with the names of at least 41 people who were possible victims and confessed to multiple times of sexual abuse. He underwent a psychological evaluation and was placed on temporary leave of absence, but was still able to remain in the church.

Despite his own confession and multiple claims, Bishop Donald Trautman and Bishop Murphy just kept reassigning him, including a five-year term as chaplain for St. Mary's Home in Erie in 2001. Four months after receiving that assignment, the Boston Globe published its article and a month later, Gawronski signed a withdrawal from priestly ministry.

"In January 2002, the Boston Globe broke national news by publishing an article detailing child sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston," the report explained. "Located within records provided by the Diocese was a petition for "withdrawal from priestly ministry" signed by Gawronski with the handwritten notation, 'EFFECTIVE FEB. 27, 2002.'"

Boston Globe Spotlight
Father Kris Stubna walks to the sanctuary following a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St. Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese, on August 15. On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania grand jury released a report of priests accused of sexual assault, including ones that were ordained at the Dioceses of Pittsburgh. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Father William Presley

Father William Presley retired in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, from the Diocese of Harrisburg, following sexual abuses that occurred as early as November 1987. The sexual abuses reportedly occurred over a span of 16 years.

Despite knowing that Presley was violent, he was continuously appointed to positions and allowed to remain in the church until his retirement in 2000. While he'd already retired by the time the Boston Globe released its article, the grand jury report indicated that the publishing of the piece emboldened other victims of Presley to come forward.

"In January 2002, an article detailing the practice of reassigning priests accused of sexual abuse of children was published in the Boston Globe," the report stated. "In April 2002, three separate victims notified Trautman of sexual abuse perpetrated upon them by Presley from 1963 to 1974."

During a phone call between Bishop Trautman and Presley, Presley admitted to the sexual abuse and had his priestly faculties revoked in 2002.

Father Robert Moslener

Since being ordained in the Diocese of Greensburg in May 1976, Father Robert Moslener served in a number of roles until he was placed on administrative leave in 2002, two months after the Boston Globe published the Spotlight article.

In 1979 and 1980, the report stated that he admitted to engaging in "inappropriate behavior" with a 15-year-old and underwent an evaluation. Six years later, multiple claims were made against Moslener, including allegedly asking the students of his religion class if they masturbated.

North Huntingdon Township Police Department sent a letter to the Diocese in 1986, which explained that Moslener had been investigated for committing sexual acts with a juvenile. There's no indication that he was ever prosecuted and he was given multiple positions in the years following. However, his time with the church came to the end shortly after the Boston Globe went public.

"In March 2002, two months after the January 2002 publication of a Boston Globe article detailing accounts of clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, Bosco placed Moslener on administrative leave," the report explained. "On August 1, 2002, Bosco resigned as Bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg."

Father Joseph M. Pease

Father Joseph Pease was ordained in 1961 and asked on numerous occasions about a sexual abuse claim someone leveled against him. At first, he denied it, then, on another occasion, he said, "I don't know," and then finally, following an investigation possibly sparked by the Boston Globe article, Pease admitted to the abuse.

On September 13, 2002, eight months after the Boston Globe article was published, an attorney representing one of Pease's victims wrote a letter to the Diocese of Harrisburg requesting an investigation of the alleged 1972 abuse.

Nicholas C. Dattilo, Bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese, issued a decree ordering the investigation under the condition that it be kept in the church's secret archives unless it's necessary for the penal process. In December of 2002, Dattilo announced that Pease admitted he was guilty when confronted with the allegations and the investigation was concluded. In 2003, he officially retired as a priest.

Father Ernest Paone

In 1962, Father Edmund Sheedy, the Pastor of St. Monica where Paone was serving as Parochial Vicar, intervened to prevent Paone from being arrested for "molesting young boys."

The Diocese of Pittsburgh reassigned him to Madonna of Jerusalem, in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. He relocated to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and then in 1967 relocated to the Diocese of San Diego. The Diocese of Pittsburgh provided him with good standing recommendation letters for positions within the church.

"There is no indication that the Diocese provided any interested parties information that Paone had sexually abused children or that the Diocese had played a role in preventing his prosecution for that conduct," the report stated.

Claims against Paone were so forceful, that one victim's father went to the church with a shotgun and told Paone to leave town. The priest was sent for an evaluation but continued being an active member of the Catholic ministry until 2002.

The grand jury report explained that following the 2002 Boston Globe article, Father James Young, Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Religious sent a letter to Father Michael Murphy of the Diocese of San Diego advising him that the Diocese of Pittsburgh was removing Paone's faculties and putting him on administrative leave because of "recent difficulties in the Church and having raised the bar on allegations brought against our priests."

The grand jury added, "only this external force generated the action which should have occurred decades earlier."

Boston Globe Spotlight Pennsylvania
Boston Globe journalists, upon whom the movie is based, Ben Bradlee Jr. (L) Mike Rezendes , Sacha Pfeiffer (2nd R) and Walter "Robby" Robinson (R) pose with director Thomas McCarthy (C) during the special screening of "Spotlight" at the DGA Theater in Los Angeles on November 3, 2015. The Pennsylvania Grand Jury cited the Boston Globe's 2002 article with emboldening victims to come forward and pressuring the church to hold its members accountable. David McNew/Reuters

Father Thomas D. Skotek

Following his ordainment in 1963 with the Diocese of Scranton, Skotek's sexual assault of a minor resulted in a pregnancy, which the priest helped the girl obtain an abortion to end, according to the grand jury report.

Skotek was reassigned to a ministry in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and the victim and her parents received $75,000 in 1989 as part of a confidentiality agreement with the Diocese. In February 2002, a month after the Boston Globe went public with its findings, legal counsel for a 47-year-old woman contacted the Diocese with a claim that she was sexually abused by Skotek while attending Pocono Central Catholic High School. Skotek admitted to the woman's claims.

Five months after the article was published and two decades after impregnating a minor, Skotek was removed from active ministry.

Reverend Gerald Royer

The Diocese of Allentown had information regarding Reverend Gerald Royer's sexual abuse of a minor that occurred in 1948 in its secret archives, while the location was under the control of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In April 2018, the victim, who was then 83 years old, testified before the grand jury about the impact the Boston Globe had on his life.

"The victim testified that, after the 2002 Boston, Massachusetts, scandal broken by the Boston Globe, he found the strength to finally disclose his abuse to the Catholic church. During a meeting with a priest in the Diocese, the priest acknowledged that Royer was a 'bad actor,' stating that the priest had counseled Royer," the report stated.

Reverend Bruno M. Tucci

Reverend Bruno Tucci was ordained in 1971 and the Diocese of Allentown became aware of his abuse of children in 1991. When confronted with the allegations, Tucci admitted to it having occurred "exactly as the victim reported," according to the grand jury. Tucci was sent to the Servants of the Paraclete, Jemez Springs, New Mexico, but returned to active ministry as pastor of two Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, parishes that year.

Tucci retired in March 2002, only weeks after the Boston Globe published its article.

Reverend Joseph D. Karabin

The Diocese of Pittsburgh received its first report of abuse at the hands of Reverend Joseph D. Karabin in 1980, but it wasn't until February 2002 that Karabin had his faculties withdrawn and his good standing revoked.

Karabin was sent to a treatment center in 1980 but returned to active ministry following completion of the program. In 1985, another claim was made against him and Karabin said during a meeting with Bishop Bosco of the Diocese of Greensburg that the latest incident was due to stress.

In 1991, a third victim came forward about the abuse that occurred when he was an altar boy at the church. Karabin admitted to the claims and also to sexually abusing the previous two boys as well.

Following the 2002 Boston Globe article, Father John Rushofsky, Director of Clergy Personnel, sent a letter to Father Thomas Wagner at Good Shepherd, informing Wagner that Karabin had been appointed Chaplain at the Vincentian Home and Vincentian Regency. The appointment was to be made effective on February 25, but on February 28, a letter was sent to Karabin informing him that his faculties had been withdrawn and he was no longer in good standing with the church.

Another case, which has been heavily redacted, also mentions the Boston Globe but the amount of information that was omitted makes it difficult to understand the context and impact.

The grand jury openly acknowledged the Boston Globe's impact on emboldening victims to come forward and putting pressure on the church to hold its members accountable. The report explained that Boston Globe's exposure is representative of only a fraction of what the grand jury discovered to have occurred in Pennsylvania, but added, "the effect of the investigative reporting of the Boston Globe on this issue can't be overstated."

The grand jury cited the Boston Globe's piece as having "created a national scandal that altered the atmosphere," and sparked a public call for transparency.

Boston Globe reporter Michael Rezendes, who wrote the 2002 article, said during an interview on NBC's Today that sexual abuse within the church has the potential to mar Pope Francis' legacy forever. He noted that it's been 16 years since the article was published, and still, the Vatican has done "very, very little."

He added that if the attorney generals in every major American city conducted an investigation they "would find pretty much the same thing" as the Boston Globe and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury found.

Boston Globe's 2002 Spotlight Article Cited in 12 Pennsylvania Priest Sexual Abuse Claims | U.S.