Kentucky Priest Charged With Child Porn

News: Crisis in the Church
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by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 5, 2016   

Accused of taking photos of boys from parish school

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A former Catholic priest faces up to three years in federal prison for charges of child pornography.

Father Stephen Pohl, former pastor of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky, pleaded guilty Monday to a single count of possessing child pornography. A plea deal was arranged that, pending a judge's approval, would send Pohl to prison for 33 months. This term would be followed with lifelong supervision and registration as a sex offender.  

Pohl was arrested in Largo, Florida in August last year and taken into FBI custody following an investigation sparked by the concerns of parish parents, who claimed the pastor had been taking photographs of their children, who were students at the parish school.  

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Fr. Stephen Pohl

The initial complaint came after a male student told his parents he had felt "weird" about photos Pohl had taken of him, in which the priest had directed him to place "his hands on his knees and move his legs apart." The parents confronted Pohl, demanding to see his cellphone. They claim there were "several photos of other young boys" posed in the same way on the phone, according to the affidavit. 

After being notified, police conducted a search of the rectory, discovering more than 150 additional photos of children from the parish school, which serves more than 700 children. According to the affidavit, none of them were deemed pornographic, but authorities did later uncover images featuring child pornography on Pohl's computer. 

The archdiocese of Louisville promptly placed Pohl on leave and suspended his ministry, confirming eight days later that he had submitted his resignation. 

In a statement last August, Louisville archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he and the diocesan chancery were "deeply grieved" on hearing of the allegations, and affirmed that the archdiocese sought to "cooperate and not interfere" with the investigation.

 

The initial news of Pohl's arrest was met with shock from much of the Louisville congregation. "It is hard to believe that anyone you love and respect has anything to do with something like this," said Carlton Moser, who with his wife Laura has attended St. Margaret Mary Parish for almost a decade. He goes on to describe Pohl as a "wonderful human being."

"I hope everything goes well for him and I wish him all the best," said Carlton. "We will continue to pray for Father Steve and his family."

Erin Haynes Reed, president of the parish's parent-teacher association, explained that there were "a lot of emotions people are working through right now" and declined further comment. 

Pohl had been pastor of St. Margaret Mary since 2008.  

 

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