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St. John Fisher Priest Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison for Possessing Pornographic Images of Children

The Rev. Bartley Sorensen, who led the Churchill parish, was also fined $25,000.

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.

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Robert January 03, 2013 at 01:41 AM
So sad that this man was leading a parish under the guise of being a servant of god. He had no compassion for the children that were harmed physically, mentally, and spiritually in those videos, etc.
Paul Gamrat January 03, 2013 at 02:50 AM
I am so sad about this. He is a predator of the worst kind and deserves what he gets and more. I shake when I think of the times I let my own children be associated with a priest thinking that he was a protector and leading us in prayer. Lesson learned: Can't trust anyone...
Harold Elliot January 25, 2013 at 06:45 AM
Very typical of the Catholic Church. The major religions of the world are so dangerous because they pretend to serve humankind while actually exploiting everyone for their own benefit and power. Its been happening for thousands of years and will continue until we destroy the yoke of oppression of organized religion.
Gary Smith August 28, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Harold Elliot, you have no idea what you are talking about pertaining to this case. After being t the Churchill parish for less than 3-weeks, it was a Catholic Church employee who caught this man and reported him to the Diocese within minutes. That same day, the Diocese then called law enforcement officials and had this man arrested. The Catholic Church employees of this parish, as well as leaders from the Diocese, assisted the detectives on this case, as well as the prosecution. Granted, everyone knows the Catholic Church has some pretty screwed up elements. But don’t ignore the soup kitchens, and clothing drives, and housing/utilities assistance, educational programs, crisis centers, and so many other good things the Catholic-based charities provide (as do many many other Christian, Jewish and Muslims faith-based charities do as well). Don’t forget about all the immigrants who had to spend a century turning to the Church because their government ignored them and their needs.

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