Former Erie Bishop Donald Trautman dies at age 85



Former Diocese of Erie Bishop passed away on Sunday, February 26 at St. Mary’s in Erie.

Madeline Bruce, Editor-in-Chief

A public viewing was held Sunday for the Most Rev. Donald Trautman, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Erie, who died Feb. 26 at age 85.

Trautman served the Gannon University community in numerous ways during his time as bishop from 1990 until 2012, particularly in his role as chairman of the university Board of Trustees.

According to an article published in the Erie Times-News, Trautman was Erie’s ninth Catholic bishop, having been a priest beforehand. He taught Scripture at a seminary in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.

“What I always wanted to be was a humble country parish priest,” he told the Times-News in 1991. “I never was.”

Instead, he spent 20 years serving the Diocese of Erie and Gannon University in what the Most Rev. Lawrence T. Persico, current bishop of the Diocese of Erie, described as a “full life of service to the church.”

In 2012, upon Trautman’s retirement from his position as bishop, Gannon renamed its Catholic House at 306 W. Sixth St. the Bishop Donald W. Trautman House in his honor. During his time at Gannon, he was also awarded an honorary degree and had an annual lecture series at the university named after him.

However, these honors were rescinded in 2018 in response to the grand jury report on sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania.

In this report, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro criticized Trautman for his handling of the clergy sex abuse crisis while he was bishop.

The Diocese of Erie community is mourning the loss of one of the previous Bishops, Donald Trautman, who served from 1990 until 2012 as Bishop. (ERIERCD.ORG)

However, Trautman stood firm in his handling of sex abuse during his time as bishop, drawing attention to his work establishing guidelines in 1993 regarding how to deal with sex abuse and establishing the Diocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Youth.

“From the day I took office as the Bishop of the Diocese of Erie, I did my best to correct the sin of sex abuse,” he said in a statement in 2018.

“I personally met with and counseled abuse victims. I removed 16 offenders from active ministry.”

In regard to the issue of his handling of sex abuse within the diocese, Persico addressed sin in a statement on Trautman’s death.

“His final years brought many trials,” he said.

“There will be those who say he should have done more when it came to clergy sexual abuse.”

At the same time, there will be those who say he should have done more when it came to clergy sexual abuse.

As Pope Francis likes to say, we are all sinners. Certainly at this time, we can look at flaws and failures on anyone’s part.

“All of us could have done better, myself included. Knowing Bishop Trautman, he did what he thought was the best he could for the good of the people and the church.”

This ideal of doing the best he could for the people and the church guided his life and work in the church, Persico said.

“He was deeply committed to the pastoral care of the priests of his diocese as well as the people,” Persico said in a statement.

That dedication transferred to the Gannon community in his role as chairman of the Board of Trustees, according to Gannon President Keith Taylor, Ph.D.

“Bishop Trautman was many things in life,” he said in a statement.

“He gave of himself to Erie and to Gannon, and for that we will be grateful.”


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