OH- Rescind honors for 2 Toledo priests, SNAP says

For immediate release: Friday, July 11, 2014

Statement by Claudia Vercellotti 419 345 9291, [email protected]

We want to express our sympathy first for those hurt by Fr. Gerald Robinson, especially Sr. Pahl's family. They deserve respect. They should not have had to experience the pain they felt this past week.

We also want to express our sorrow and sympathy for Fr. Robinson's family. They should have been able to bury their relative without controversy, had not Toledo Catholic officials stubbornly and selfishly insisted that “full priestly honors” be bestowed on him.

And we want to express our sympathy for Toledo Catholics who must endure officials who are so stunningly insensitive in their diocese.

We're here today for three reasons.

First, we want to make a desperate, last-minute plea to Catholic officials: Change these burial plans. Put the well-being of crime victims ahead of your own preferences. Stop acting selfishly and honoring a criminal. Start acting compassionately and respecting his victims.

We know it's late. But we feel duty bound to try one last time – as we've tried repeatedly for a week – to help Toledo Catholic officials see just how hurtful they're being.

Second, no matter how Fr. Robinson's funeral is conducted, there are two more honors for another wrongdoer priest. These honors are permanent. But they shouldn't be. They should be rescinded. 

A youth athletic complex and a downtown street are named after Msgr. Jerome Schmit. In 1980, Fr. Robinson was the prime suspect in Sr. Pahl's murder. He was being questioned by police. But that questioning came to a sudden end when Msgr. Jerome Schmit barged into the police station and took Fr. Robinson away. 

This is not speculation or opinion. It's fact. It's the sworn testimony of two police officers who were there when it happened. 

Let me repeat that. Let that sink in for a minute: A top Toledo Catholic official interfered in a murder investigation by police. And because of that, a proven murderer and an accused child molester walked free for decades. 

Who knows how many crimes Fr. Robinson may have committed because Msgr. Schmit blocked the police probe. This much we do know: many Toledo citizens and Catholics, including Sr. Pahl's family, worried for years about a murderer on the loose. And those fears could and would have ended much sooner, if not for the selfish and irresponsible actions of Msgr. Schmit.

Now, Catholic officials are comfortable honoring Msgr. Schmit. And city officials are too. That's dead wrong. That's callous and hurtful. That breeds cynicism. It's is precisely what leads many crime victims to shrug their shoulders and stay silent about criminals, because they're convinced that the powerful and popular will never be brought to justice.

The good news is that society's treatment of crime victims is evolving. And those officials – religious and secular – who chose to honor Msgr. Schmit are, for the most part, gone. That should make it easier for city and church authorities to rescind these honors now.

Third, we want to remind people that Fr. Robinson is an alleged child predator. And even though he can't hurt anyone ever again, we suspect that others who he assaulted are still trapped in silence, shame, confusion and self-blame. They might step forward, get help and feel better. And we believe it's the moral obligation of Toledo Catholic priests and other church staff to aggressively seek out anyone else who may be suffering now because of Fr. Robinson's crimes.

We beg Fr. Charles Ritter, the temporary head of the diocese, to do this. We also beg every single person on the church payroll – in a parish or in the headquarters – to do this. It's very simple. Put announcements in church bulletins and parish websites urging those who saw, suspected or suffered wrongdoing by Fr. Robinson to speak up. Make verbal pleas from the pulpits. Do the kind of outreach Jesus described in his parable of the lost sheep. 

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])


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