Ohio Catholic Priest Allegedly Played “Father Figure” to Sex Abuse Victims and Enabled their Drug Addictions

A Catholic priest who was arrested by the FBI in August on sex trafficking charges allegedly played a “father figure” role to his victims and has also been accused of exploiting and enabling their drug addictions. These revelations are disturbing and our hearts ache for the victims who were abused and hurt by someone they thought they could trust.

Fr. Michael Zacharias, a priest from the Diocese of Toledo, has now been indicted on ten counts and could no doubt spend significant time in prison if convicted. He used his position as a clergyman to hide in plain sight, furnish drugs to at least one teen, and abuse him and others. The biggest question that remains is how many others have been abused? Fr. Zacharias is 53 years old and has been accused of grooming minors and engaging in sexual acts with them since the late 1990s when he was enrolled as a seminarian.

This case is yet more evidence that the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal continues today and is not just a thing of the past. By our count, nineteen priests and other Catholic staffers have been arrested in 2020. Over the past three years, nearly 90 have been arrested. Because only 25-33% of child sexual abuse victims report while still minors, we suspect that there are almost certainly hundreds more clergymen still wearing collars and preying upon faithful Catholic boys and girls.

What we see generally in the Catholic Church is a lack of transparency until an arrest is made or a secular investigation is undertaken. As evidenced by attorney general investigations in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois, predators often stay hidden if the decision is left up to Catholic bishops and other senior Catholic leaders. We hope that this story will encourage law enforcement officials in Ohio, including district attorneys in Toledo and Attorney General Dave Yost, to look more closely at the disclosures made my Church officials within their state and open their own investigations into clergy sexual abuse and cover-up.

To us, three things are crystal clear: the issue of clergy sexual abuse is ongoing; Catholic officials have lied about the scope of clergy abuse in the past; and change will only come through secular society.

CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member ([email protected]), Claudia Vercelloti, SNAP Leader ([email protected]419-345-9291), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

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