EXCLUSIVE: Sex offender allowed to help lead CLE Catholic church masses; News 5 Investigation leads to change

Photo by: source: St. Thomas More, Brooklyn, OH

By: Jonathan Walsh

May 09, 2024

Offender was part of service lead by Bishop Malesic

CLEVELAND — Groups that assist sexual abuse victims are outraged that the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland allows a convicted sex offender to help lead masses for months. The advocacy groups question how this can happen in light of the church’s documented history with pedophile priests.

“I will praise you Lord,” could be heard in song on video of a mass from April 28 of this year. It was the voice of Keith Kozak, 44, from Brooklyn. News 5 Investigators found he has been on the alter at St. Thomas More Church, leading the congregation in prayer and song. “I shall not die but live...,” he sang during a mass there on April 21.


“I thought that this had to be a mistake. There’s no way. There just couldn’t be any way,” said Claudia Vercellotti from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. She told us she doesn’t have an issue with Kodak’s right to worship, but Kozak has been doing this for a while now. “Week after week, normalizing a convicted sex offender…” said Vercellotti. “Normalizing him as a church leader.”

In August of 2020, Kozak “tried to engage in sexual activity” with a boy, bringing with him sex tools. However, it was actually an undercover cop. Kozak served nearly a year in prison and now has to register as a sex offender two times a year for 25 years.

“They’re not doing the minimum to keep children safe in the diocese,” said Anne Barrett Doyle from BishopAccountability.org.

She and Vercellotti were just in Cleveland not even a month ago, accusing Cleveland Bishop Edward Malesic of not releasing a full list of sexual predator priests. Now, with the revelations about Kozak leading songs at mass as recently as May 5, Barrett Doyle is really not happy with the bishop.

“He has done nothing to advance transparency in the Cleveland Diocese,” she told us. “And when you don’t have full information, you have children at risk.”

To read the rest of the story, go here.

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