News and Press Releases

Priest Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison for Possessing Pornographic Images of Children

January 2, 2013

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - A suspended Catholic priest was sentenced in federal court for violating federal child sexual exploitation laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Bartley Sorensen, 63, was sentenced by United States District Judge Alan N. Bloch to serve 97 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for receiving and possessing thousands of visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Sorensen was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

On Dec. 9, 2011, Sorensen was a Catholic priest assigned to Saint John Fisher Parish in Churchill, Pa. On that day, a parish employee observed Sorensen viewing an image on the screen of his computer of a young boy wearing nothing but a shirt. The employee promptly reported what she observed to the Catholic Child Abuse Hotline. Search warrants were thereafter served at the rectory that resulted in the seizure of, among other things, over 100 CD's most of which were loaded with thousands of images of children being sexually abused, including one that depicted a nude male child with a rope around his genitals and what appeared to be blood on his genitals.

Assistant United States Attorney Craig W. Haller prosecuted this case on behalf of the United States.

U.S. Attorney Hickton commended the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, the Allegheny County Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Churchill Police Department for the successful investigation leading to the conviction and sentence in this case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

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