Catholic Priest

Jan Olowin

Diocese: Diocese of Erie

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

The Diocese of Erie personnel file for Father Jan Olowin contained a document entitled “Summary of Phone Conversation.” It was the memorialization of a telephone conversation that was written by Robert J. Smith, Vicar General, on May 27, 1993. The document recorded the alleged abuse of a victim by Olowin. Victim #1. It is the Diocesan notes regarding a phone call Smith had with Victim #2, who is a victim of clergy sex abuse himself. These notes record some of Victim #2’s abuse and record Victim #2 informing the Diocese of his friend’s (Victim #1) abuse. Victim #2 said he was disillusioned with the Church when Olowin was appointed pastor of St. George. Victim #2 explains that Victim #3, who was also a friend of his, was sexually accosted by Olowin while on a trip to Mexico. The document does not record the age of Victim #3, only that he was young at the time of the assault. Victim #2 tells Smith that Victim #3 was able to fight off Olowin’s sexual advances by pushing him away.  Sometime later Victim #3 shared the incident with Victim #2, who subsequently shared the story with Smith in 1993.

On November 4, 2016, Bishop Lawrence Persico wrote a letter to Olowin, now retired in Peoria, Arizona, indicating that he had learned of an allegation of clerical misconduct made several decades ago against Olowin. Persico’s letter did not mention details, but it referenced a phone call that Persico and Olowin had the day before. The Grand Jury can infer that Persico outlined Olowin’s offences in this call and articulated the reason for the letter in greater detail. This letter officially restricted Olowin from public exercise of all priestly ministry until further notice.

The Grand Jury was unable to determine from the subpoenaed files what prompted Persico to restrict Olowin’s priestly faculties twenty-three years after Olowin’s name was first associated with sexual abuse.  In a later production of files to the Grand Jury, a letter from the Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona to Olowin was found. This document was dated November 18, 2016 and was written to Olowin and carbon copied Persico in Erie. It thanked Olowin for his service and informed him that, due to a letter received from Persico, Olowin would be restricted from all ministry until the matter of the alleged abuse was resolved. It is unknown if the investigation of Olowin is continuing or if law enforcement was ever notified.

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.