A defrocked Catholic priest was charged Tuesday with abusing two altar boys decades ago at a parish in Bucks County.

Francis Trauger, 74, was charged Tuesday morning with indecent assault and corruption of minors in connection with the assaults, which prosecutors say occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was released on $250,000 unsecured bail.

His attorney, Brian McVan, declined to comment after an early afternoon arraignment at the Bristol Township Police Department.

Trauger, who was named in a sweeping grand jury report about abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia about 15 years ago, formerly served at St. Michael the Archangel parish in Tullytown.

He was defrocked in 2005 at the height of an investigation into the sexual abuse of children by priests that was conducted by then-Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham.

Trauger’s position at St. Michael was his final assignment, and according to Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, it was “unfortunately one assignment too many.” He praised the priest’s victims for their courage in reporting the crimes.

“These victims are incredibly brave to come forward, and they deserve to see justice,” Weintraub said Tuesday. “And they will.”

Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub announces criminal charges against former Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest Francis Trauger.
Vinny Vella / Staff
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub announces criminal charges against former Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest Francis Trauger.

Last August, the archdiocese informed the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office about the alleged assaults, according to the affidavit of probable cause for Trauger’s arrest.

Two men, now 31 and 35, told county investigators that Trauger fondled them multiple times while they were changing into their altar vestments before Mass at St. Michael, the affidavit said.

Both victims were 12 when the alleged assaults occurred, investigators said.

“I can only imagine the shame and horror they felt then,” Weintraub said. “Trauger will pay for what he did to them.”

Weintraub said that because of a change in state law in 2005, the statute of limitations for victims who were sexually abused by priests between 1993 and 2003 extends until their 50th birthdays.

Ken Gavin, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said Tuesday that church leaders had been unaware of the recent claims and were actively cooperating with investigators in Bucks County.

Trauger had been placed on an administrative leave of absence from St. Michael in 2003, Gavin said. His removal from the priesthood two years later stemmed from an unspecified abuse claim that was substantiated by the archdiocese.

Trauger’s name was mentioned in the Philadelphia grand jury report, which said that Msgr. William J. Lynn, the secretary for clergy, knew of the priest’s abuse but never took action. Trauger was not prosecuted as a result of that investigation.

The grand jury report said Trauger took young boys on overnight trips to the Pocono Mountains, where he shared a bed with them and touched them inappropriately. Those allegations, among others, date back to 1981.

During particularly harrowing testimony in the case against Lynn in 2012, one accuser told prosecutors that Trauger tracked him down after seeing him looking at gay pornography in a bookstore and locked him in a conference room at his Catholic high school for over an hour to discuss homosexuality. The accuser said Trauger touched him inappropriately and made passing threats against his family.

One of those earlier accusers, Michael McDonnell, attended Weintraub’s news conference Tuesday to denounce Trauger.

Michael McDonnell, who has accused Francis Trauger of assault, said the charges filed in Bucks County brought him "tears of joy and tears of sorrow."
Vinny Vella / Staff
Michael McDonnell, who has accused Francis Trauger of assault, said the charges filed in Bucks County brought him "tears of joy and tears of sorrow."

McDonnell, now 50, came forward in 2012 to report that Trauger abused him during his time at St. Titus Church in Norristown. Though the statute of limitations on criminal charges in those assaults had run out by that time, McDonnell said, the charges in Bucks County filled him “with tears of joy and tears of sorrow.”

“I am very elated that the wheels of justice are moving forward toward the predators, and help to expose them and the institutions that enable them,” he said. “It is a clear-cut example here today why the statute of limitations needs to be reformed in Pennsylvania.”