Catholic Priest

Giles L. Nealen

Ordained: 1951
Diocese: Diocese of Erie

From the Report I of the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

A letter dated January 25, 1993 from a victim stated that 23 years earlier, when he was 13 years of age, he was sexually abused by Father Giles L. Nealen.  At that time, Nealon was assigned to Queen of the World church in St. Mary.  This letter stated that Nealen sexually abused him and two of his friends, but he was unsure if the other two victims would come forward.  In this letter, the victim begged the church to keep Nealen away from other young boys so that they would not also be sexually assaulted by the priest.

A follow up letter, dated February 5, 1993 and addressed to Bishop Donald Trautman stated that the victitm had sent the January 25 letter to Archbishop Nowicki at St. Vincent’s Archabbey in Latrobe.  There was no response to the victim or any correspondence regarding these letters in the file provided by the Diocese of Erie.

A May 10, 2002 e-mail correspondence to Trautman stated that a woman wanted to report the sexual abuse of young boys by Nealen. This woman claimed that she knew of at least three boys that were sexually abused by Nealen.  Specifically, she had recently found out that an old friend of hers, Victim #1, was arrested for also sexually abusing young boys.  The e- mailer was very distressed about this and when she discussed this information with her brother, he told her that Nealen had made sexual advances toward him and two of his friends while on a camping trip.  She was told by her brother that both other boys, Victim #1 being one of them, were forced to perform sex acts on Nealen.  The writer went on to say that during Victim #1’s trial he testified that he had been an altar boy and had been sexually abused during that time.

The only response that was enclosed in the files provided by the Erie Diocese to this e- mailer was a four sentence e-mail from Bishop Trautman telling her that Father Giles Nealen died on December 29, 1996.  He also told her that he spoke with the Archabbot, who asked the Bishop to forward the e-mail to him and that he hoped she would hear from him shortly. It should be noted that there is no response correspondence from the Archabbot to this e-mailer in the file provided by the Erie Diocese.

In an undated letter from another woman, she claimed that thirty years prior her eleven- year-old son was sexually abused by Nealen. She stated that she and her family were members of The Queen of the World in Elk County where Nealen was the priest assigned at that time. The letter tells how she noticed a drastic change in her son’s behavior from a “happy go lucky child to a pensive and irritable child.” She noted that even his handwriting changed from a “bold nature to a restricted light hand” and how she could not figure out why. She claimed that around this same time, Nealen was abruptly removed from the parish and that no explanation was given to the members of the parish for this removal.  The letter writer stated that a few years later she was talking with two other women who mentioned something about Nealen and the reason he left the parish.  She claims that she was shocked, but suddenly things fell into place and she berated herself for being so stupid.  This writer claimed that thirty years later her son had never married, would not enter a Catholic church and was still severely affected by the sexual abuse he endured from Nealen.  An electronic mail response from Trautman, dated March 31, 2004, stated that he received her March 19th  letter.  He told her that what happened to her son was before his time and “certainly unknown to my predecessors.”   He apologized and told her that he would forward her letter to Archabbot Douglas Nowicki for his response. It should be noted that Bishop wrote a letter and forwarded it to the Archabbot, but that no response letter to this writer by the Archabbot was found in the files provided by the Diocese.

A cassette tape enclosed in the file of Nealen labeled “victim’s father” is a recording of an on-air interview from radio show “Erie in the morning” of a father of one of the victims of sexual abuse of an unnamed priest.  The father of the unnamed victim tells a heart-wrenching story of how he and his family went to the local parish in the mid-1970s and befriended the priest there.  The victim’s father told the hosts of the radio show that he was approached by a friend who told him that he had “walked in on” this priest sexually abusing his own son and was concerned that the son of this man had also been sexually abused.  When the father asked his young son if anyone had ever touched him, he claimed that his son started to cry and told him that their local priest had.  The victim’s father told the radio hosts how this priest was “part of their family” and that he would come and stay the entire weekend at their home.  His son told him that the priest would come into his room after he and his wife went to bed to sexually abuse him. The victim’s father claims his son would have been between the ages of nine and fourteen at the time of this abuse.  When the victim’s father confronted the priest, who had recently left the parish, he claimed the priest did not deny that he sexually abused his son and told him the reason he did it was because “his son needed love.”  When the victim’s father told the priest he wanted them to go to the Bishop and tell him what happened, that the priest refused to go because he didn’t want to be removed and that he would lose his pension.  The victim’s father tried several times to set up a meeting with the Bishop to discuss the sexual abuse, but he claims it never worked out.

The Diocesan files received pursuant to subpoena contained no information on any of these victim’s statuses or if any of them were offered counseling. The Grand Jury investigation found no documentation that the Diocese of Erie notified local law enforcement or the District Attorney’s office about Nealen’s long history of sexually abusing numerous young boys.

The Diocese of Greensburg also provided limited information regarding Nealen in response to the subpoena. An unmarked folder within the Diocese of Greensburg’s files contained a letter, dated July 13, 1972, from Father Egbert Donovan, O.S.B to Bishop Connare. The letter described a series of transfers for multiple priests. More significantly, the letter contained one sentence regarding Nealen, and suggested that he was involved in an inappropriate incident. The sentence stated, “For reasons already known by you, it is wise and prudent to reassign the present Pastor, Father Giles Nealen, O.S.B., at this time.” This letter suggested that both the Diocese of Greensburg and the Archabbot of St. Vincent were aware of Nealen’s actions.

A hand written note contained in the file (author unknown) lists:

Pastor St. Bruno – July 1971 – July 1972
Served in Marguerite – Oct 1967 – Aug 1968
Died December 29, 1996

It does not appear that the Diocese of Greensburg provided any further information regarding Nealen.

Additional information regarding the widespread sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Dioceses of Pennsylvania and the systemic cover up by senior church officials is compiled in the Pennsylvania Diocese Victim’s Report published by the Pennsylvania Attorney General following a two-year grand jury investigation.  A complete copy of the Report is available on the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website.