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  Central Teacher Charged for Porn
Priest Has Been on Leave since Dec.

Toledo Blade [Toledo OH]
Downloaded May 1, 2003

A Toledo Roman Catholic priest on leave of absence since December was charged yesterday with one count of child pornography in U.S. District Court, officials said.

If convicted, the Rev. Stephen G. Rogers, 54, a religion teacher at Central Catholic High School, faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for possessing child pornography that had been transmitted by computer, said Thomas Secor, an assistant U.S. attorney.

The charge was filed as an information, a legal procedure that avoids a grand jury investigation and usually indicates a plea-bargain agreement has been reached, legal experts said.

John Czarnecki, Father Rogers' attorney, said the priest has no comment.

Father Rogers was placed on a paid leave of absence Dec. 18 and recently completed residential therapy, the Rev. Michael Billian, diocesan chancellor, said.

"He continues to be on leave until this whole issue is resolved. He is not in active ministry," Father Billian said. "We expect him and the diocese to fully cooperate with the federal court on whatever they need and desire from us."

On Dec. 17, U.S. Customs Service investigators served a search warrant at Father Rogers' home, 2963 Dorr St., seizing a computer, 112 computer disks, 43 videotapes, two books, and a bag of photos.

In an affidavit filed in federal court, investigators alleged that the priest had subscribed to a child pornography Web site from Dec. 23, 1998, to June 27, 2001. Father Rogers' alleged involvement was discovered after the FBI questioned the Web site's California operator.

Mr. Secor said officials recently completed their investigation of the priest.

"Child pornography is a serious situation because the children who are depicted are victims. The best way to deter that is to prosecute the people who view it," Mr. Secor said.

A Sandusky native, Father Rogers was ordained in June, 1995, and served as associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Mansfield, Ohio, before being assigned to Toledo's Central Catholic High School in 1997.

In addition to teaching religion, he is the school's associate pastor.

Before becoming a priest at 47, he taught religion at St. Mary's Elementary and St. Mary's Central Catholic High schools in Sandusky and Gesu in Toledo.

Six Toledo diocesan priests were removed from ministry last year after allegations of child sexual abuse. Father Rogers is the only Toledo priest facing child pornography charges.

The U.S. Roman Catholic Church was plagued by the biggest scandal in its history last year when 432 priests resigned, retired, or were removed from ministry over allegations they had sexually abused minors.

 
 

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