A massive Pennsylvania grand jury report has revealed the horrific extent of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, detailing abuse cases against over 300 parish priests who are accused of abusing more than 1,000 young victims.
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In light of the serious sexual abuse allegations leveled against Father Francis X. Trauger, our experienced attorneys have opened a new investigation into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
We believe that, between 1972 and 1993, the Archdiocese failed victims on numerous occasions, allowing Trauger, a known pedophile, to abuse at least six young boys at parishes throughout the Philadelphia area. Given Trauger's long history of abuse, along with the impunity with which he committed his horrendous crimes, we believe that dozens of young children may have been abused by the priest.
If you or a loved one were abused by Father Francis Trauger, we urge you to reach out to our dedicated Pennsylvania sexual abuse law office for more information. It may still be possible to hold the Archdiocese of Philadelphia accountable for failing to protect students and parishioners from this dangerous sexual predator. Some abuse survivors may be eligible to pursue legal action.
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Father Trauger is not named in the new grand jury report, but an article from Bishop Accountability, which reviewed internal Archdiocese documents, reveals the horrific extent of Trauger's alleged misconduct, along with the Archdiocese's efforts to conceal the abuse from law enforcement authorities and the Church community.
Ordained in 1972, Father Francis X. Trauger was transferred to new assignments at least eight times during his career.
This is common practice in the Catholic Church after a priest is accused of sexual misconduct. Instead of reporting the matter to police, or warning parents about the priest's pedophilic tendencies, the Church will transfer the priest to yet another parish, far from the eyes of prying families and law enforcement officials and failing to inform the new community of the priest's wrongdoing.
Of Father Trauger's eight transfers, six occurred after 1981, when the Archdiocese first began to record sexual abuse allegations against the priest. The first recorded allegation against Father Francis X. Trauger came on August 6, 1981, when two families reported to Father Anthony McGuire, the pastor of Norristown's Saint Titus Church, that Trauger had molested their sons.
At the time of their abuse, the boys were 12 and 13. Trauger, when he was assistant pastor at Saint Titus, had taken the boys to a motel in the Poconos, where he slept with them in his bed. The allegations are truly horrific. In their report, one family told Church leaders that Father Trauger had, over the course of many hours, attempted to anally penetrate their son, fondling his penis throughout the night.
Yet in their own report on the matter, officials for the Archdiocese used a euphemistic language that utterly drained the allegations of their deep depravity. The Archdiocese wrote, "they shared the same bed and there were touches." At least one Archdiocese official, Monsignor Statkus, was of the opinion that Father Traugus should be transferred, given that there was "scandal in the parish."
Father Trauger admitted to his misconduct soon afterward. Only four days after the two families came forward, Father Trauger told Father Donald Walker, then-assistant to Monsignor Statkus, that he had taken the boys to the motel, slept in the same bed with them and "massaged" them. In addition, Father Trauger admitted to molesting two other boys from the parish.
There is no evidence that anyone from the Archdiocese attempted to contact any of Trauger's known victims. Instead, Father Walker instructed Trauger to avoid any further one-on-one contact with boys and to pursue professional help. After abusing the two children in 1981, Father Trauger remained in active ministry for another 22 years. He was transferred to parish after parish. At every stop, sexual abuse complaints followed in Trauger's wake.
In August of 1981, Trauger was transferred to Saint Matthew, another Philadelphia parish. Only one year later, Archdiocese officials received yet another report that Father Trauger had taken a young boy, this time a 14-year-old, to his home in the Poconos. There, Father Trauger slept with the boy in a small tent, rubbing himself against the child throughout the night.
The boy disclosed the misconduct the next day, telling his father, a detective in the Philadelphia police department. Disturbed by his son's story, the father reported the abuse to an officer within the morals division of his police department, who forwarded the complaint to an official at the Catholic Youth Organization, then to Monsignor Statkus of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Statkus met with the boy's father, after which he wrote in an internal memo that, "the [parents] have not discussed this with anyone outside the family and an officer of the Morals Division. The priests of Saint Matthew were not contacted by him or by Chancery. I suggest that no mention be made to the priests" [emphasis added]. The Archdiocese worked quickly to ensure that the boy's parents would not go to the police.
It's important to note, in passing, that at this time Father Trauger was on a camping trip in South Dakota with two young boys who attended St. Matthew's School. Despite the renewed complaints against Trauger, no attempts were made to contact the parents of these two boys. Instead, Monsignor Statkus contacted Trauger's therapist to determine whether or not the priest was of a "homosexual orientation."
In a subsequent meeting on August 8, 1982, Father Trauger disclosed to Monsignor Statkus that he had gone on at least eight additional camping trips with young boys over the course of the preceding year. There is no evidence that Statkus made any attempt to determine what occurred on these other camping trips.
Father Trauger was removed from St. Matthew and sent to Villa Saint John Vianney Hospital, a notorious church-run treatment facility in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Church frequently sends dangerous sexual predators to Villa Saint John Vianney for "treatment" after sexual abuse complaints have arisen.
The therapists at Villa Saint John wrote copious notes on Father Trauger's treatment, explaining in part that the priest displayed a "frustration regarding sexual expression and some confusion regarding sexual object choice."
The therapy reports are filled with similarly euphemistic expressions. When the therapist writes that Trauger shows "some confusion regarding sexual object choice," he clearly means that Father Trauger is a pedophile, someone who derives sexual pleasure from young children. There is, of course, also the possibility that the therapist in this case was never made fully aware of Father Trauger's misconduct.
After his treatment, Father Trauger was again transferred, this time to West Philadelphia's Saint Francis de Sales, a parish that features a grammar school. In his new assignment, Father Trauger was instructed not to take personal trips with young boys, but at the same time, Monsignor Statkus encouraged Trauger to participate in the parish's youth activities.
Over the next eight years, Father Trauger was transferred to a new parish on four more occasions. Between June 1985 and September 1988, he served as parochial vicar at Conshohocken's Saint Matthew. Then he spent less than a year at Annunciation B.V.M in South Philly. From there, he was transferred to Saint Joseph, in Aston, where he spent another four years.
While at Saint Joseph, Trauger was accused of stalking a student from Saint John Neumann High School. It appears that Trauger noticed the boy one day in a Center City bookstore. The student was perusing the store's selection of homoerotic reading material. This piqued Trauger's interest. The priest then used his connections at the school to track the boy down and have him removed from class for a private meeting.
Once inside the small room where they met, Father Trauger "counseled" the boy on his homosexual reading material. According to a report from the Archdiocesan Review Board completed in 2003, Father Trauger at this time also felt the boy on his knee and upper thigh.
After an angry call from the student's mother, officials at Saint John Neumann referred the report to the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese conducted its own investigation, ultimately interviewing Trauger about the incident. Trauger admitted to tracking the boy down and questioning him about his homosexuality, but the Archdiocese never interviewed the student in question. Tasked with reviewing the incident in 1991, Monsignor Molloy appears to have gone out of his way to leave the boy's name out of reports.
All this only came to a head in 2003, when the Archdiocesan Review Board took up the task of investigating the historical complaint against Father Trauger. In testifying to the Board, Monsignor Molloy defended his actions, saying that, while he was aware at the time of the abuse complaints against Trauger, the Archdiocese lacked the "hard evidence" required to sanction the priest.
Father Trauger was allowed to remain in contact with children throughout 1991 and 1992, until he was eventually transferred in June 1993 to another parish, becoming the parochial vicar at Saint Michael the Archangel in Levittown.
It is remarkable, reprehensible but remarkable, that the Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Bevilacqua transferred Trauger - a man who had been accused of sexual abuse by at least three credible victims - to three parishes with grammar schools.
It is remarkable and reprehensible, but not particularly surprising. This is a common tactic of the Catholic Church, one that appears over and over in the Pennsylvania grand jury report. After a priest is accused of sexually abusing a child, quietly transfer him to another parish, without telling anyone about the allegations, especially not the police.
Father Trauger was only removed from the ministry in 2003, after a Pennsylvania grand jury subpoenaed the Church's files on the priest. In testimony before the grand jury, the Vicar General Monsignor Edward Cullen admitted that the abuse complaints against Trauger were handled improperly. Father Trauger appeared before the grand jury as well, but refused to answer its questions.