Louisville, Kentucky priest Father Stephen A. Pohl was placed on leave by his archdiocese this week after reports surfaced that he has become the target of an FBI probe looking into the creation and distribution of child pornography. The investigation is reportedly being conducted by the Bureau’s task force on cyber crimes.
Pohl, who has been an ordained Catholic priest for 30 years and pastor of at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Louisville for the past seven, has not been arrested or formally accused of any criminal wrongdoing — but the Archdiocese of Louisville nonetheless issued a public statement stating why church officials have removed Pohl from his parish and put him on administrative leave.
The investigation is looking into “inappropriate photos of children that have been taken and collected by Father Pohl to determine if he has possessed or distributed child pornography,” the archdiocese said in the statement, adding that it has no further information or detail regarding the investigating targeting Pohl, according to a report in The Louisville Courier-Journal.
“We realize that this is a painful situation,” said Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, in a letter to Pohl’s parishioners on Friday. “As more information becomes available, we will be in touch about opportunities to address your concerns and questions.”
Jeff Koenig, a leader of Louisville’s chapter of the advocacy and support group SNAP — Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — commended the local archdiocese for being “transparent” about the investigation into Pohl’s activities, adding that he hoped the “transparency” would continue.
Placing Pohl on administrative leave is the first step in a standard procedure for the archdiocese whenever it received notice that one of its priests in the target of allegations involving child pornography or child abuse.
The archdiocese will cooperate with civil authorities in the investigation, also as part of its policy, said a spokesperson for the church in Louisville.
In St. Louis, Missouri in April, a 36-year-old Catholic priest, Father William F. Vatterott, was also placed on leave when he was indicted on a child pornography charge. In that case, though physical contact between the priest and underage children was not alleged, a police search after allegations of inappropriate behavior reportedly turned up nude images of underage males on the priest’s computer.
As the church waits for the results of the investigation into the alleged child pornography activities of Father Stephen Pohl, another priest has been placed in charge of the St. Margaret Mary congregation.
[Image: St. Margaret Mary Parish]