Pope defrocks Pennsylvania priest accused of sexual abuse

Part of guilty plea entered last year


(CNN) - The Vatican has defrocked a Pennsylvania priest who's been accused of sexually abusing children.

David L. Poulson, who served in a church in Erie in northwestern Pennsylvania, was one of 300 priests from the state who were accused of sexual crimes since 1947, according to a 1,356-page grand jury report released in August. The grand jury charged just two of those priests, as the rest of the cases exceeded the statute of limitations.

In October, Poulson pleaded guilty to two felony charges, including corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children. As part of the plea, he agreed to seek laicization, the Diocese of Erie said.

Laicization is a process that removes a priest from the priesthood. Pope Francis approved Poulson's "dispensation from all the obligations attached to holy orders (priesthood)," the Diocese says.

Authorities accused Poulson of sexually assaulting a boy repeatedly in rectories at two churches, and alleged he tried to assault another boy at a hunting cabin he owned with a friend.

Poulson, who served the Catholic Church for four decades, received a sentence of 2.5 to 14 years in a Pennsylvania prison.

"Mr. Poulson has now been removed from the clerical state, he is forbidden to function as a priest in the Catholic Church and should no longer present himself as a priest and not be admitted as a priest in the celebration of the sacraments," Bishop Lawrence T. Persico said in a statement.

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