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Local Priest In Jail, Facing Child Pornography Charges

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A local priest is in jail this weekend, facing charges of child pornography.

According to the police criminal complaint, Fr. Bartley Sorensen is facing one count of sexual abuse of children – possession of child pornography.

Fr. Sorensen, of St. John Fisher Church in Churchill, was arraigned by video Saturday morning.

The criminal complaint reports that a church employee contacted the Catholic Child Abuse Hotline regarding an incident she witnessed on Friday in the church’s rectory.

The criminal complaint goes on to report that the employee had announced her presence and was going up the stairs at the rectory when she “heard a clicking noise continually, which sounded like a mouse on the computer.”

The employee went on to tell investigators that when she got to the room she saw “numerous screens were minimized on the computer,” the criminal complaint reports.

According to the criminal complaint, “the computer’s screen showed a picture of a boy approximately 5- to 10-years-old with the words ‘Hottie Boy’ across the top of the screen. She stated that she saw that the boy had a shirt on and nothing else.”

The employee also reported to officials that Sorensen had only been at the church for about three weeks.

On Friday night, police executed a search warrant and questioned Sorensen. The criminal complaint reports that investigators “found several still image files depicting prepubescent males either posed naked or engaged in sexual activity with other prepubescent males or adult males.”

According to the criminal complaint, in an interview with investigators, Fr. Sorensen admitted “that he possessed and viewed at least 100 images of child pornography.”

“He said he has confessed that he has done this, and we just need to be watchful,” said Fr. Ron Lengwin, the spokesperson for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. “Certainly, we as a church need to do that to protect young people.”

Sorensen is behind bars in the Allegheny County Jail on $100,000 bond. A judge ordered him to undergo a behavioral evaluation.

He is expected back in court on Dec. 19.

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh released a statement Saturday afternoon regarding the case.

It reads in full: “On Dec. 9, 2011, the Diocese of Pittsburgh was informed that Father Bartley A. Sorensen, pastor of Saint John Fisher Parish, Churchill, may have been viewing pornographic images of children on his computer. Civil authorities were immediately contacted by diocesan officials. Father Sorensen was also immediately removed from active ministry and placed on administrative leave. He was arrested and civil authorities are continuing their investigation.

“The viewing of pornographic images involving children is a disturbing and criminal act. The Diocese of Pittsburgh is cooperating to the fullest extent in the investigation of this incident.

“Please keep in your prayers all victims of the tragedy of sexual abuse.”

Sorensen has been a priest for 35 years. Prior to St. John Fisher, he was at St. Anne in Castle Shannon. He resigned Saturday. The case will also be investigated by the Vatican.

RELATED LINKS:
Allegheny County Courts
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