Each of these – including Gawronski, Presley, and Smith – were "already on a monitoring/aftercare program that had been recommended by psychiatric professionals. While in hindsight he might now act differently, given the recommendations and plans made before Bishop Trautman came to the Diocese from Buffalo and out of deference to Bishop Murphy, Bishop Trautman continued the monitoring/aftercare plans and assignments recommended by the professionals and put in place by his predecessor."
And according to the response, "In several instances, even though mental health professionals advised that a priest could be returned to ministry, Bishop Trautman kept the priest out of public ministry."
The response also noted that neither Gawronski, nor Presley, nor Smith "is known to have reoffended. During the time period each of these priests remained in active ministry after initial allegations were made, no allegation that they offended while in such ministry was or has been made."
"When allegations of prior (usually decades old) abuse by each priest were raised while Bishop Trautman was in office, he acted to take each priest out of any ministry that would include contact with children and ultimately took each out of ministry all together," the response stated.
Each of the three priests were dismissed from the clerical state in processes which were initiated by Bishop Trautman.
The bishop's response included examples of potentially misleading writing in the grand jury report, authored by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.
For instance, it noted the report's mention that Bishop Trautman allowed Fr. Gawronski to hear confessions for persons with disabilities in 1996.
The report stated: "By 1996, there was no possible doubt that Gawronski had spent most of his priesthood preying on the vulnerable. However, even as complaints continued, on November 6, 1996, Gawronski was notified that Trautman had approved his request to hear confessions for persons with disabilities."
"What the Report does not include," the response states, "is that this was a one-time event, with multiple priests and church personnel participating, that the event would take place at the St. Mark's Center (the building where the Diocesan offices, including the Bishop's office, are located), and that Gawronski's participation was at the request of a religious sister who served as Coordinator for the Ministry to Persons with Disabilities. Why not disclose the full facts about the request? Does the request lose its sensational nature when put in actual context?"
The response also pointed to potentially misleading statements in the report regarding Fr. Presley.
The report mentioned an April 2003 press release from the Erie diocese regarding the removal of Fr. Presley's faculties, in which the diocese stated it had "no information to provide on other possible allegations against the priest." The report called the press release "false and misleading."
The response noted that the press release quoted in the report, while "inartful … is simply a statement of 'no comment.' Contrary to the allegation in the Report, this was not a false statement."
The response also addressed the report's presentation of a 2005 diocesan investigation undertaken with a view to having Fr. Presley, who had retired in 2000, dismissed from the clerical state.
The investigation was led by Msgr. Mark Bartchak, who wrote to Bishop Trautman Aug. 25 of that year indicating he had gathered sufficient evidence for Presley's dismissal, and asking if he should continue to follow up on further potential leads. Bartchak indicated that Trautman said that would be unnecessary.
The report called this a "curb" of the diocese's investigation intented "to prevent finding additional victims."
"When read in context," the response says, "Bishop Trautman is simply answering an inquiry from Rev. Bartchak and, using the same words from the inquiry, telling him that, if the Diocese had enough evidence to succeed in the laicization process (which they did), he need not further investigate facts that likely would not lead to a violation of Cannon law [sic] because of the age of the victim. Again, this simply is not an effort to somehow hide Presley and his conduct."
The report also read that with regard to Presley, "The truth was that Murphy, Trautman, and the Diocese of Erie intentionally waited out the statute of limitations and curbed their own investigation to prevent finding additional victims."
The response called the allegation that Bishop Trautman had "intentionally waited out" the statute of limitations "baseless."
"The allegations brought to Bishop Trautman's attention in 2002 – on which he quickly acted – concerned conduct that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. The statute of limitations had, unfortunately, expired long ago," the response said.
"Despite their artful (and sometimes misleading) construction, a close reading of the summaries found in the Report's Appendix reveals the same course of action throughout Bishop Trautman's 22 years in office," the response concluded: "Bishop Trautman consistently acted to protect children and remove priests from ministry."