Kentucky priest faces federal charge of possessing child pornography

Louisville, Ky. — A Kentucky priest was arrested in Florida on a federal charge related to the possession of pornographic images of children.

Fr. Stephen Pohl, who resigned as pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church in Louisville Aug. 20, was arrested in Florida a day later.

The priest was placed on administrative leave Aug. 12, when the Archdiocese of Louisville learned he was under investigation by the FBI.

The action by the archdiocese means Pohl may not present himself as a priest, wear clerical clothing or serve in ministry.

Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said during a news conference Aug. 21 hours before the arrest 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," he 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 the archdiocese are available to provide assistance to families, including counseling and resources to help families talk to their children about the situation.

Brian Reynolds, archdiocesan chancellor and chief administrative officer, presented the most recent findings of the FBI investigation during the news conference.

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

Reynolds reported that the FBI also said Pohl had downloaded pornographic images of children and that the images were found on his personal electronic devices.

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 archdiocesan leaders met Aug. 20 with school families. The school is among the largest in the archdiocese with more than 700 students.

"We want to continue our process of being as public and transparent as we can with this," Reynolds said. "It's painful for everyone involved."

Kurtz said that he is 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 archdiocesan vicar general, will be the parish's temporary administrator.

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