Fr. Joseph Jerge – Diocese of Erie

Father Joseph W. Jerge

Diocese of Erie

Fr. Joseph Jerge Horowitz Law

Ordination: 1951

Sick leave/Psychological Therapy: 1989

Removed from Ministry: 1992

Death: 2006

Assigned as follows:

  • 1951 – 1952 Parochial Vicar, St. Boniface (Erie, PA)
  • 1952 – 1959 Parochial Vicar, St.John the Baptist (Erie, PA)
  • 1959 – 1964 Parochial Vicar, St. Joseph (Oil City, PA)
  • 1964 – 1970 Pastor, St. Hippolyte (Guys Mills, PA)
  • 1970 – 1989 Pastor, St. Callistus (Kane, PA)
  • 1989 – 1991 Parochial Vicar, St. John the Evangelist (Girard, PA)
  • 1991 – 1992 Parochial Vicar, St. Francis Xavier (McKean, PA)
  • 1992 – 2006 St. Patrick’s Retirement Resident (Erie, PA)

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Joseph W. Jerge:

The first allegation of sexual abuse against Father Joseph W. Jerge’s came to the Diocese of Erie in 1989. Shortly thereafter, the Diocese of Erie sent Jerge to St. Luke Institute, a notorious treatment facility for pedophile priests.  This suggests that either Jerge admitted to the allegation or that there were too many victims to ignore; the grand jury report is not clear on this point.

In order to return to ministry, the Diocese of Erie made Jerge sign an aftercare contract limiting his ministry with young boys upon his discharge from treatment. Bishop Michael Murphy then assigned him to St. John the Evangelist in Girard, Pennsylvania.  

In 1991, almost two years after his assignment to St. John’s, Jerge was called to a meeting at the Chancery after the Diocese of Erie learned that he had was continuing to have contact with the young boys in his parish. Jerge coached the grammar school basketball team and listened to confessions of the schoolchildren.  The Diocese reported all of this information (when it finally noticed what was going on) to the treatment providers at St. Luke’s.

The solution was to have Jerge sign the exact same aftercare contract again and assign him to a new parish.  Bishop Trautman assigned Jerge to St. Francis Xavier in McKean.

In 1992, a St. Francis Xavier parishioner contacted the Chancery to report that Jerge was developing an inappropriate friendship with her teenage son. Several members of Trautman’s administration met with Jerge and concluded the complaint was valid – given Jerge’s history it seemed he was grooming the boy for abuse. Jerge did not deny the allegation and was removed from ministry permanently.

THE ALLEGATIONS HEARD BY THE GRAND JURY

During his sophomore year of High School, the person identified as Victim #1 befriended Jerge. Jerge took the victim on numerous trips where the priest would fondle the child. Victim 1 wanted to become a member of the clergy, and when the time came for him to enter the seminary, he was not allowed to do so.  In 1995, Victim 1 applied for a position as Director of Religious Education at a parish school. According to the grand jury report, Bishop Trautmann personally directed school administrators not to hire him because he “may be homosexual and may have attempted suicide.” A 1996 memo to the VICTIM’s file (why the Diocese of Erie had a file on the victim going back that far is unclear) said that he had been seen at gay bars, although it is unclear who in the Diocese of Erie was apparently at the same gay bars often enough to observe that the victim was often there too.

Jerge sexually abused the man identified as Victim #2 between 1981 and 1985, starting when the boy was 13. The victim claimed all of the abuse occurred inside Jerge’s car during Jerge’s assignment at St. Callistus. Jerge’s preferred method of trapping the victim was to invite a small group of altar boys out to dinner or a movie once their chores were finished. Victim #2 was always the last boy to be dropped off. Jerge would then drive around for 20 to 30 minutes, molesting the boy.  The Diocese of Erie first learned of Victim #2’s allegations in 2003.

Jerge died in 2006 as a priest of the Diocese of Erie, albeit without faculties to minister.  He resided in a Diocese of Erie retirement home from the time he left St. Francis Xavier until his death.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Erie.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Erie now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims.  Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com today.