Priest removed from ministry during investigation

Father Robert J. Potts, pastor of St. Ursula Church, Fountain Hill (Bethlehem), has been removed from ministry pending investigation of an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The allegation was made recently to the administrators of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, who then notified the Diocese. The Diocese had no prior knowledge of the allegation until being notified by program administrators. The program was established by the Diocese to provide compensation to abuse victims as one part of their healing.

On the day he was notified of the allegation, Bishop Alfred Schlert immediately removed Father Potts from ministry and immediately directed that law enforcement be notified. 

The removal of Father Potts from ministry at this time is not a determination of guilt, but rather a precautionary measure until the appropriate investigations are completed.

The abuse allegedly occurred when Father Potts, now 82, was pastor of the former St. George Parish, Shenandoah. He was ordained in March 1964.

As part of its cooperation with law enforcement, the Diocese sought the guidance of the Schuylkill County District Attorney’s office regarding the appropriate timing of a public announcement.

Parishioners of St. Ursula’s were informed of the allegation at all Masses this weekend.

Assignment History of Father Potts:

Immaculate Conception, Jim Thorpe    1964 - 1965
St. Joseph, Easton  1965 - 1966
St. Vincent de Paul, Minersville 1966 - 1967
St. Ann, Lansford 1967 - 1969
Notre Dame, Bethlehem 1969 - 1970
St. Vincent de Paul, Minersville  1970 - 1978
St. Bernard, Easton 1978 - 1979
Sacred Heart, New Philadelphia 1979 - 1985
St. George, Shenandoah 1985 - 2004
also Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Shenandoah  1986 - 2004
also St. Stephen, Shenandoah 2001 - 2004
St. Mary, Ringtown and St. Joseph, Sheppton 2004 – 2006
St. Ursula, Fountain Hill  2006-Present

Anyone who knows of incidents of abuse, in the Church or elsewhere, should report it to the State Child Line at 1-800-932-0313 or to local law enforcement. To speak directly to the Diocese of Allentown’s Victim Assistance Coordinator, please call her direct line: 1-800-791-9209.