Will Francis Trauger, the disgraced former priest who molested children, go to heaven or hell?
He didn’t say in court on Wednesday, his attorney didn’t directly answer when asked as he was leaving, and the judge didn’t make his opinion known from the stand. If you go by the beliefs of the religion Trauger – known to many at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church as “Father Frank” – preached for decades, it isn’t for anyone but God to decide.But here on Earth, Bucks County Judge Jeffrey Finley’s was able to decide something regarding Trauger’s future. He handed down a sentence for Trauger of 18 to 36 months in state prison with seven years of probation and a requirement to register as a sex offender following could be like hell on earth for the 74-year-old Brooklyn, New York City, man.
Brian McVan, Trauger’s attorney, noted in court that his elderly client had numerous health issues – immunocompromised and arthritis – and would be at higher risk for his safety at a state correctional institution because of his crimes against children.
Trauger admitted to sexually assaulting two boys, who were about 12 years old at the time, in the mid-1990s and early 2000s before mass at the catholic church on Levittown Parkway in Tullytown Borough.
As part of a plea deal, he admitted to two of the charges if prosecutors did not move forward with others. The accepted agreement included at least 18 months behind bars and left much of the rest up to the judge.
Before the judge, Deputy District Attorney Matt Lannetti said a possible third victim connected to the Tullytown Borough parish came forward, but was not ready to fully step into the light as a victim.
One of the two confirmed victims, who was a boy when he was molested by Trauger in 1996, issued an audio victim impact statement to the court that was played.
“They failed me,” the victim said of the catholic church.
“I trusted the church and Father Frank,” he added.
The man – now a father and husband – said he tried to kill himself after the sexual abuse by the holy man. The suffering lasted as he was discharged while a week away from graduating from U.S. Navy training due to sleepwalking and night terrors that included him yelling “don’t touch me,” bouts of depression, abuse of alcohol and substances to numb the pain, and impulsive behavior that wrecked his finances. In addition, he said he feels uncomfortable when around men with authority.
The man called Trauger a “monster” and stated he wished the former priest would spend the rest of his days in prison.
McVan told the court that his client did terrible things but otherwise “lived an exemplary life.”
“Conduct that the defendant engaged in cannot be defended,” McVan admitted.
The attorney said Trauger, a Riegelsville Borough native who grew up in Doylestown Borough, wanted to serve and helped members of the church as a teacher and priest.
“Any good you did, you tore down and destroyed,” Finley said from the stand.
The judge said the former priest’s actions molesting children erased the positive things he may have done and left the young men and their families with a lifetime of pain.
Trauger was removed from St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in 2003 and later defrocked.
A 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report mentioned Trauger. It stated the Levittown-area priest was accused of sexually assaulting and raping boys. The grand jury report noted that Trauger had allegations of molesting boys made against him in 1982. Testimony stated that the priest sexually assaulted the boys at a motel in the Poconos. No charges were brought at the time.
In 2012, a man testified during a trial in Philadelphia that Trauger zeroed in on him at a city church facility and locked him in a room until staff found him.
District Attorney Matt Weintraub told reporters following Wednesday’s plea at the Bucks County Justice Center in Doylestown Borough that the case came to their radar through the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s investigators. He added that it was a change from when the church had tried to hide cases from the public and law enforcement.
The case came together following an investigation by Bucks County Detectives and Tullytown Borough police.
Levittown-area resident Mike McDonnell was in court for the plea. He has said Trauger molested him in his youth in East Norriton, Montgomery County, but the case is past the statute of limitations.
McDonnell approved of the fact Trauger will go to prison and noted hearing the sound of the handcuffs fastening around Trauger’s hands by sheriff deputies.
“It’s almost never too late to come forward and speak your truth to others,” Weintraub said, urging victims to contact authorities.
The district attorney would not confirm if there were additional possible victims of Trauger’s out there and declined to comment whether other church-related sexual abuse investigations were underway.
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