Longtime Warren Priest Accused Of Abuse In Probe Of Diocese

WARREN, Pa. — The Rev. Salvatore P. Luzzi was pastor of St. Joseph in Warren for 15 years over parts of three decades.

Over the course of more than 30 years as a teacher and priest in the Erie Diocese, Luzzi “was accused of sexual misconduct by eight male victims ranging in age from early teens to early twenties,” according to the grand jury report released on Tuesday. “Some of these victims were groped, inappropriately kissed, hugged, and/or fondled. He also faced allegations of responsibility for the suicide of a former student/victim.”

Like most of the 300 priests identified by a grand jury report released Tuesday, the section dedicated to Luzzi included biographical information, employment and assignment history and a summary.

Among his victims were two seminarians — those studying to become priests — at St. Mark Seminary, in Erie, Pa., according to the report. “Luzzi’s inappropriate touching and fondling of at least two seminarians prompted the Diocese to settle with those seminarians for large sums of money.”

“The Diocese listed several Luzzi victims in its internal reports, but little to no documentation was contained in the files,” according to the report.

In 1994, Bishop Donald Trautman sent Luzzi and another priest working at the seminary to “St. Luke’s Institute for therapy. The Diocese publicly announced that Luzzi was going on an extended sabbatical for “personal, spiritual and academic growth.”

Luzzi returned to pastoral ministry in February 1995, with limitations, according to the report. “Trautman directed Luzzi to refrain from all contact with youth under 19 years of age and to avoid travel and social interaction with such parishioners.”

“Later that same year, in September 1995, Trautman had Luzzi’s faculties as a priest removed,” according to the report. “It was Luzzi’s position that Trautman forced him to retire. It was the position of Trautman and the Diocese that what led to Luzzi’s resignation was the weight of new allegations and the real possibility of widespread publicity.”

“It was found in subpoenaed files that Luzzi’s accusers threatened to take ‘appropriate steps’ if Luzzi was not removed from ministry,” according to the report. Monsignor Robert “Smith and Trautman informed Luzzi that if he did not retire of his own free will, the Diocese would follow the canonical process specified in church law to remove Luzzi. Luzzi resigned less than 30 days later.”