Cleveland’s Catholic bishop is restoring to ministry a priest who “groomed” a teenager and tried to abuse him.
In a nine minute televised investigative report, based largely on “hundreds of pages of documents from the Lake County prosecutor,” Fox 8 investigative reporter Bill Sheil reports that Bishop Richard Lennon is putting Fr. Jeffrey M. Weaver back on the job for the first time in a decade.
Leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are blasting the move as “reckless, callous and deceitful.”
According to the records released by prosecutors, in 1996, Fr. Weaver
--“bought the teenager a large number of alcoholic drinks,”
--“then tried to French kiss him” while victim pushed him away in the Immaculate Conception rectory,
--“rubbed his legs above the knee, approaching his penis one time,”
--“locked his legs together over the victim’s legs, saying ‘isn’t this nice,’” and
--“put the victim’s hands on his (the priest’s) legs.”
According to a 1997 memo by Fr. John Wright of the Cleveland Diocese, Fr. Weaver
-- “often talked about the sex in the seminary he attended,”
-- “admits he is gay to them (young people) and is available in a sexual way to them,” and
-- has a pattern which seems to be “waiting until they are 18 years of age, not child, however, this is an example of sexual exploitation.”
According to a memo from Bishop James Quinn to Bishop Anthony Pilla, Fr. Weaver
-- “admits one regretful advance” toward this man,
-- “something would have happened if Fr. Weaver had acted out his initial compulsion,” and
-- “will avoid scandal as responsibly as they can.”
According to the victim (who was interviewed in silhouette), very shortly after he turned 18, Fr. Weaver
-- “embraced and hugged me and touched me and put his hand on my leg several times,”
- “talked about him having oral sex with other seminarians and ‘boyfriend relationships,’” and
-- “made a point” of telling him “he never had boys in his room until they turned 18.”
The victim also believed that Weaver was “grooming” him for sex.
In light of all this, SNAP is urging Bishop Lennon to reverse his decision and keep Fr. Weaver out of ministry.
“It all boils down to this simple question: ‘Why take the risk with vulnerable parishioners?’” Clohessy said. “Bishops have promised, for a decade now, ‘one strike and you’re out.’ But all across the country, we’re seeing more and more bishops putting sexually troubled priests back on the job, now that some of the public attention has waned and bishops know they won’t ever be disciplined, denounced, demoted or defrocked by the Vatican, no matter how irresponsibly they act.”
SNAP praised the man who was interviewed by Fox 8.
“We are grateful this brave victim for speaking up,” said SNAP director David Clohessy. “But we are appalled at Bishop Lennon’s callousness and recklessness.”
Lennon recently wrote that since the incidents “never involved a minor” it thus “does not rise to the level of permanently suspension.”
After the allegation was reported to church officials, Fr. Weaver transferred to St. Albert the Great in North Royalton. In 2002, when the church’s child sex abuse and cover up scandal surfaced in a major way, Fr. Weaver asked for a leave. For the last decade, he has apparently not worked as a priest.
SNAP notes that the Joliet Illinois Catholic Bishop Daniel Conlon made a similar decision recently to re-instate a suspended, accused predator priest to his old position. But within days, Conlon reversed himself.
Conlon heads the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ child sex abuse committee.