SNAP says Cleveland Catholic Bishop Has Work to Do in Wake of Child Pornography Case

We applaud law enforcement in Cleveland for their thorough investigation of Fr. Robert McWilliams. The Catholic clergyman was originally arrested for possessing child pornography. Now, according to media reports, there is also evidence of “child prostitution” and "“hands on physical abuse.

Studies have shown that over half of those serving time for child  pornography eventually admit to having "sexual contact with children" that was previously unknown to legal authorities. However, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did not add child pornography to its list of sex crimes until 2011. No one knows how many priests are still in ministry and a potential threat to innocent children because of that decision, but we fear there are many.

Since child pornography is a marker for other types of abuse, we believe each bishop in the United States should be reviewing his files and removing clerics who have such complaints against them. This is especially crucial because those images have an infinite lifespan and priests who consume them are encouraging the production of more, and real boys and girls are hurt in that process.

We call on Cleveland bishop Nelson J. Perez to cooperate fully with the police on this case, and also to redouble his efforts to review his files and determine if other cases of child pornography have not been reported to law enforcement and if any involve clerics still in ministry. He should also visit all the places where Fr. McWilliams was assigned while working in his diocese and beg any victims, witnesses, and whistle-blowers to make a report to the police investigators.

CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (zhiner@[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

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant