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SNAP pushes Diocese to name priests accused of abuse outside region

By Nicki Gorny • Mar 15, 2019 at 2:00 PM

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is questioning why the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo has not publicly acknowledged four priests who spent time at local schools and parishes before or after they allegedly sexually abused minors in other jurisdictions.

“The bishop’s silence is the voice of complicity,” Claudia Vercellotti, a local leader for SNAP, said. “It is the reason that these types of crimes continue and it is the coverup that keeps these crimes going. The only way to stop that is to expose them and to demand accountability.”

Ms. Vercellotti and David Clohessy, a former national director and current St. Louis director of SNAP, held a news conference outside the Toledo Diocese, 1933 Spielbusch Ave., on Tuesday to call attention to four priests identified by the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus in December in relation to “one or more established allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”

The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church. They have a presence around the world.

While each allegation faced by the four priests took place outside the Toledo diocese, each at some point served here. The Jesuit Midwest Province identified more than 50 total clerics, many of whom are dead. The earliest allegation is dated to 1944.

SNAP called on diocesan officials to add the names of the four clerics who served locally to a list of clergymen against whom credible allegations have been made within the Diocese of Toledo. The diocese identifies some of the 46 clerics accused in incidents between 1950 and 2012 on its website, notably excluding 13 who have died and who “can neither defend themselves against the accusation nor possibly be a future threat to anyone if the allegation were true.”

SNAP also called on diocesan officials to “aggressively reach out to anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered any wrongdoing by” the four Jesuit priests.

“It’s important that even the dead predators are publicly acknowledged because it’s incredibly healing for a victim when he or she sees a priest or a brother or a nun or a seminarian who molested them – when that victim sees that their name is finally out in the public,” Mr. Clohessy said.

Diocesan spokesman Kelly Donaghy said in a statement that the diocese only identifies priests against whom they have received substantiated allegations related to an assignment within the Toledo Diocese. They have not received any accusations against the four priests whom the Jesuits identified as having spent time locally.

Mr. Clohessy criticized such an approach by bishops as “incredible hair-splitting.”

“They say things like, ‘he wasn’t ordained here.’ … ‘he wasn't suspended here.’ ‘We don’t have an allegation against him.’ Or in this case, ‘well, he belonged to a religious order, so I never signed his paycheck,’” he said. “We believe all of those are flimsy excuses to maintain secrecy.”

Ms. Donaghy also said the local diocese is “currently in the process of updating our website to include the assignment history of any priest who has a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor while serving in the Toledo Diocese.”

The accused priests are:

• The Rev. Patrick L. McLaughlin, accused in one or more incidents at the University of Detroit High School between 1957 and 1959. Locally Father McLaughlin was assigned to St. John’s Jesuit High School between 1933 and 1935 and to Gesu Parish between 1960 and 1961. He died in 1970.

• The Rev. Charles E. Sullivan, accused of one or more incidents at Our Lady of the Springs Church in French Lick, Ind., between 1958 and 1959. Locally Father Sullivan was at St. Mary’s Parish between 1969 and 1976 and Gesu Church between 1977 and 1996. He died in 1996.

• The Rev. Thomas J. Powers, accused in incidents at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland in the 1970s, John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, between 1973 and 1978, Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, between 1985 and 1986 and at the Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Mich., in 2000. Locally Father Powers was assigned to the Ohio Veterans' Home & Ohio State Police in Sandusky between 1995 and 1999. He was dismissed in 2001.

• The Rev. James F. Gates, accused of one or more incidents at St. Mary's Mission in Omak, Wash. between 1966 and 1970. Locally Brother Gates was assigned to St. John's Jesuit High School between 1978 and 1980 and to the Diocese of Toledo between 1980 and 1983. He was dismissed in 2012.

The Jesuit Midwest Province additionally identified one priest, the Rev. John Gallen, in relation to an incident at St. Joseph Parish in Sylvania in 1980. The Diocese of Toledo had already identified Father Gallen on its list of credibly accused clerics. He died in 2011.

The Jesuits released the list in the wake of a continuing sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, which picked up new attention this summer with the release of a grand jury report that laid out a pattern of abuse and coverup in Pennsylvania.

Pope Francis most recently addressed the crisis at a global summit at the Vatican in February.

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©2019 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

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