NV--Child sex case vs. Fernley priest settles

For immediate release: Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014

For more information: David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP Executive Director 314 566 9790, [email protected], Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director 314 503 0003

Child sex abuse and cover up case against Reno priest settles

Victims prod Catholic officials to alert the public & parishioners

Group to bishop: “Reach out to others who may have seen or suffered crimes

A child sex abuse and cover up lawsuit involving a Fernley priest has settled. Now, a support group wants Reno Catholic officials to “warn parishioners, parents, police and the public” about the cleric and insist that he live “in a remote, secure, independent treatment center.”  

In recent years, Fr. Thomas J. Cronin ([email protected]) worked at three Reno area churches and a local hospital. But, according to the suit, he sexually assaulted a then-devout teenaged girl in the Kansas City diocese in the late 1970s.

Leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which exposed that Calvo was keeping Fr. Cronin on the job after and despite the abuse lawsuit.


The group wants the bishop to insist that Fr. Cronin stop trying to start a shelter for homeless or abused women.


During much of the last decade, Cronin worked in four Nevada towns: Reno (St. Therese Church of the Little Flower and Washoe Medical Center), Fernley (St. Robert Bellarmine), Empire (St. Joseph the Worker) and Virginia City (St. Mary’s of the Mountain). Around 2007, Cronin supposedly retired. But in 2010, he headed St. Mary’s.


“The lawsuit against Fr. Cronin settled because the victim is credible and because Catholic officials feared that more wrongdoing – by him and by them - would be exposed at a trial,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP’s Executive Director. “But Catholic officials must do more to protect innocent kids and vulnerable adults. We hope that every person who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Cronin will speak up, get help, call police, protect others and start healing.”

Until Doe’s suit, Fr. Cronin had not been publicly accused of abuse before. She repressed all memory of the crimes until 2009, the suit says.


According to the 34 page suit, through the girl’s confession at Sacred Heart parish in Hamilton (in Caldwell County MO), Fr. Cronin learned that she had been abused by a relative. Later, he manipulated her and molested her in the confessional booth, and sometimes elsewhere in the church, as many as ten times.

“Through confession, Fr. Cronin learned that this girl had been molested before,” said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP’s Outreach Director. “Yet he used this trusted, confidential information to betray and further violate her in the awful ways.”

The suit which sought unspecified damages and was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Ordained in 1969, Fr. Cronin worked in at least four Missouri towns including Blue Springs (St. Robert Bellarmine), Hamilton (Sacred Heart), Gallatin (Mary Immaculate), and Kansas City (St. Patrick’s, Holy Cross, St. Gabriel Archangel, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Bernadette’s). Fr. Cronin was also assigned to several chaplaincies in Missouri including at Children’s Mercy, Truman Medical Center, Western Missouri Mental Health Center, Charlotte Extended Care Center, University of Missouri-Kansas City Dentistry School, and the University School of Medicine. Fr. Cronin was also active in Boy Scouts.

In a statement, the Kansas City diocese claims “In 1996, Cronin accepted a hospital chaplain position in the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He retired in 2004.”

The victim is represented by Kansas City attorney Rebecca Randles (816 931 9901, 816 510 2704 cell).

Fr. Cronin’s photo and work history are here: http://www.bishopaccountability.org/assign/Cronin_Thomas.htm

His last known address was 143 Desert Lakes Rd. in Fernley.

A copy of SNAP’s letter, sent today by fax and email, is below:

Dear Bishop Calvo:

We call on you to inform Nevada Catholics and citizens that a child sex abuse and cover up lawsuit against a Fernley priest and his church supervisors has settled. As best we can tell, the priest lives in your diocese, worked recently in your diocese, and is not in any way being supervised or monitored.

This is a situation fraught with danger. Parents, parishioners, police, prosecutors and the public need and deserve to know that Fr. Thomas Cronin is a credibly accused abuser. That’s the best way to protect innocent children and vulnerable adults.

So we urge you to use parish bulletin, church websites, news releases, pulpit announcements and other resources to simply inform Reno area families of this new settlement.

We were disappointed that you didn’t do this when the case was filed. We were disappointed that it took news coverage generated by our group to prod you to oust Fr. Cronin from his job.

Please do not continue to act irresponsibly by being silent and passive again. Please actively inform others, promptly and publicly, that an abuse suit against Fr. Cronin has settled.

If you want to do nothing, you have a range of excuses you can use. They are, however, just excuses.

 Fr. Cronin hasn’t been found guilty in a court. He faces no criminal charges. He’s only been sued by one alleged victim. The settlement contains no admission of guilt. He has not been accused of any child sex crimes in Nevada. The list goes on and on.

On the other hand, however, you and your brother bishops have repeatedly pledged to be “open and transparent” in alleged clergy sex cases.

That’s enough of a reason for you to be forthcoming.

And should someone in Nevada have been hurt by Fr. Cronin, you and your diocese will likely will be sued.

That’s another reason you should be forthcoming.

Here are more reasons:

--KC Catholic officials could have refused to settle the case against Fr. Cronin, if they thought he was innocent. They did not.

--KC Catholic officials could have, when that suit was filed, publicly said they think Fr. Cronin is innocent. They did not.

--KC Catholic officials could have, last week when that suit was settled, publicly said they think Fr. Cronin is innocent. They did not.

--KC Catholic officials, at any time, could have ordered Fr. Cronin to return to Missouri and go to work in a parish. They did not.

--Fr. Cronin has tried or is trying to set up a shelter for homeless and abused women. If he had been “falsely accused” of abusing a teenaged girl, common sense suggests he would try to avoid – not create – situations in which he might be “falsely accused” again.

-- In a sworn deposition, another alleged child sex abuse victim said that “I recollect specifically the assistant pastor, Fr. Thom Cronin, involved with a young boy and photographic equipment in his private room.”

We could go on and on. The bottom line is that a caring, prudent shepherd who genuinely cares about his flock would honor his promises of “openness,” disclose the settlement involving Fr. Cronin, and aggressively urge anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes to call police. That’s a very small, simple, quick and cheap step you could and should make to potentially prevent future abuse and help ease the suffering of those who have been molested.

We look forward to your reply.

David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP Executive Director 314 566 9790, [email protected]

Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected]


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