Former pastor arrested

Father Pohl
Father Pohl

Father Stephen Pohl, the former pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church under investigation by the FBI for possessing inappropriate and pornographic images of children, was arrested in Florida Aug. 21. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz accepted the priest’s resignation a day earlier.

Father Pohl was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 12, when the Archdiocese of Louisville learned about the investigation. Father Pohl remains suspended. He may not present himself as a priest, wear clerical clothing or serve in ministry.

Archbishop Kurtz said during a press conference at the chancery Aug. 21 that the archdiocese is cooperating with the FBI and concentrating its efforts on the pastoral care and safety of those affected.

“I personally and all of our archdiocese are deeply grieved,” the archbishop said. “Our effort to provide pastoral care and especially to reach out to families has already begun and will continue.”

Counseling staff from St. Margaret Mary School and from the archdiocese are available to provide assistance to families, including counseling and resources to help families talk to their children about the situation. The archdiocese’s victim assistance coordinator, Martine Siegel, is available to respond to questions and concerns. She can be reached at 636-0296 or victimassistance@archlou.org.

Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, the archdiocese’s chancellor and chief administrative officer, presented the most recent findings of the FBI investigation during the Aug. 21 press conference.

“Father Pohl had numerous — up to 200 — photos of St. Margaret Mary School children on his computer that were taken on parish grounds,” he said. The children were fully clothed in these images, but authorities described some of the photos as “inappropriate,” Reynolds said.

He reported that the FBI also said Father Pohl had downloaded pornographic images of children. Images were found on his personal devices, Reynolds added.

The investigation began after a family learned that a photo had been taken that “bothered” their child, according to Reynolds. He said the child’s parents obtained the photo and shared it with the authorities.

Reynolds also said leaders of the archdiocese met on Aug. 20 with St. Margaret Mary School families.

“We want to continue our process of being as public and transparent as we can with this,” he said. “It’s painful for everyone involved.”

The archbishop added that he’s grieving and can only imagine “what parents are feeling.”

“There is anger, confusion; there is hurt and fear. Our job right now is to walk with families,” he said.

The archbishop also praised the efforts of St. Margaret Mary’s staff to respond to families’ needs and asked for the prayers of the faithful in the archdiocese.

The archbishop plans to assign a new pastor to St. Margaret Mary. In the interim, Father J. Mark Spalding, pastor of Holy Trinity Church and the archdiocese’s vicar general, will be the parish’s temporary administrator.

In addition to St. Margaret Mary, where Father Pohl served since 2008, the priest has also served in the following parishes and ministries: pastor of St. Thomas and St. Monica churches, Bardstown, Ky.; director of the Vocation Office for the Archdiocese of Louisville; associate pastor of St. Athanasius Church, the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown and St. Gabriel Church; chaplain or co-chaplain at Mercy Academy; and deacon at St. Helen Church, now Mary Queen of Peace Church.

Those who have information related to the investigation are asked to call the FBI’s local Cyber Crimes Unit at 263-6000

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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