A suspended Catholic priest once assigned to St. John Fisher Church in Churchill was sentenced Wednesday in federal court for violating federal child sexual exploitation laws.
U.S. District Judge Alan N. Bloch sentenced Bartley Sorensen, 63, to serve 97 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for receiving and possessing thousands of visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Sorensen was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine, according to U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton.
On Dec. 9, 2011, a parish employee observed Sorensen viewing an image on the screen of his computer of a young boy wearing nothing but a shirt. The employee promptly reported what she observed to the Catholic Child Abuse Hotline.
Search warrants were later served at the rectory that resulted in the seizure of, among other things, more than 100 CDs, most of which were loaded with thousands of images of children being sexually abused, including one that depicted a nude male child with a rope around his genitals and what appeared to be blood on his genitals.
According to the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Sorensen was first Parochial Vicar at St. Ferdinand Catholic Church in Cranberry from Nov. 1, 1976 to June 29, 1981, then moved to St. Colman in Turtle Creek from 1981 to 1983. According to the Bishop Accountability website, he served in a number of parishes in the ensuing years. Before coming to St. John Fisher, Sorensen most recently had served as a priest at St. Anne Church in Castle Shannon from February to November 2011.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig W. Haller prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States. Hickton commended the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, the Allegheny County Police Department, the FBI and the Churchill Borough Police Department for the investigation leading to the conviction and sentence in this case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, click here.