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PHILADELPHIA (ChurchMilitant.com) - A former Catholic priest is heading to prison after pleading guilty to molesting two altar boys decades ago in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Francis Trauger pleaded guilty on July 8 to two counts of indecent assault of a minor.
He was sentenced by Bucks County Judge Jeffrey L. Finley to 18–36 months in a Pennsylvania state prison, seven years' probation and will be required to register as a sex offender.
The 74-year-old defrocked priest had previously been named in a number of grand jury reports on the clerical abuse of children in the Philadelphia archdiocese but had avoided prosecution until now.
He was defrocked in 2005 amid a sweeping grand jury investigation that said he was accused of sexually assaulting and raping boys. No charges were brought at the time.
St. Michael's Church was Trauger's final assignment before he was named as an abuser in the report.
Trauger's attorney, Brian McVann, said his client's conduct "cannot be defended," but "[h]e has done great good in his life."
But the judge countered, saying any good Trauger had done during his time as a priest was eclipsed by the actions against the two boys, now in their 30s.
"I don't know that you truly understood that," the judge said to Trauger, "Or at least that you truly didn't understand that until you were arrested."
The two plaintiffs told investigators Trauger fondled them as they changed into their altar boy vestments before Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Tullytown, Pennsylvania. Both victims were 12 years old at the time.
Trauger's case was referred to District Attorney Matt Weintraub in 2018 after one of the men filed a complaint with the archdiocese's victim compensation fund. The second victim came forward in March 2019. The two victims independently reported to detectives similar abuse by Trauger.
Despite being nearly 20 years old, the cases were eligible for prosecution under a 2005 change in the statute of limitations for sex abuse.
Trauger's case represents just the latest blow to the Philadelphia archdiocese, which currently is paying out millions to hundreds of sexual abuse victims.
In April, Philadelphia Abp. Nelson Perez updated the faithful on the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (IRRP) that compensates victims of clerical sex abuse in the archdiocese.
Perez cited 800 alleged victims as having come forward, which he says represents approximately $130 million in settlements.
The IRRP was created by Philadelphia's then-archbishop Charles Chaput in November 2018 — just months after the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report — to help manage the scope of clerical abuse, its cover-up and the anticipated payouts.
Church Militant reported extensively on the 2018 884-page grand jury report which revealed a vast network of more than 300 predator priests who abused hundreds of male teens, with bishops covering up the abuse.
Trauger's name does not appear in the 2018 Grand Jury Report because the Philadelphia diocese was excluded since it had been the subject of earlier investigations. But the grand jury's exposé of the remaining dioceses laid bare "the moral and financial crisis for the Church in Pennsylvania."
Once the report was released, Pennsylvania lawmakers began pushing for new legislation on the statute of limitations for prosecuting cases of child sex abuse.
Trauger's case became eligible for prosecution under a 2005 change in the statute of limitations for sex abuse.
Authorities fear there could be more victims of Trauger's sexual abuse. Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub has said, "If there are others out there like them, I want to know about it and, if we can, we will prosecute them and others."