Catholic priest Bartley Sorensen, who served in Cranberry as an assistant priest decades ago, has pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of violating federal child sexual exploitation laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced Wednesday.
Sorensen, 63, pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Alan N. Bloch to receiving and possessing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
According to the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Sorensen was first parochial vicar at in Cranberry from Nov. 1, 1976, to June 29, 1981.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Sorensen, who was most recently a priest at St. John Fisher Church in Churchill, received and possessed many images of minors being sexually abused between June 2011 and Dec. 9, 2011.
"This case is particularly disturbing because it involves a priest, a man in a position of great trust, viewing horrific and degrading images of children,” Hickton said. "Consumers of these violent sexual images fuel the production of more images, and the demand for increasingly extreme content. This is not a 'victimless' crime."
Judge Bloch scheduled sentencing for 12:30 p.m. Sept. 3. The law provides for a total sentence of at least 5 years and up to 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $500,000, or both.
Under the federal sentencing guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Bloch ordered Sorenson to be detained pending sentencing.
Assistant United States Attorney Craig W. Haller is prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.
The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, the Allegheny County Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Churchill police department conducted the investigation leading to the conviction.