Priest Charged with Killing Put on Leave; Review Set for Claims
By David Yonke firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo Blade [Toledo OH]
Downloaded April 28, 2003
A Toledo Catholic priest charged in the 1980 ceremonial killing of a nun
was placed on a leave of absence yesterday after Bishop Leonard Blair
made a "pastoral visit" to the Rev. Gerald Robinson in the Lucas
Bishop Blair's action bars the 66-year-old priest from public ministry
- including celebrating Holy Communion or any other sacrament. Father
Robinson remained in jail last night in lieu of $200,000 bond.
He was arrested Friday and arraigned Monday on a murder charge in the
April 5, 1980, death of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in the chapel of the
then Mercy Hospital. The murder occurred on Holy Saturday, one day before
Easter and the nun's 72nd birthday.
In a statement released yesterday, Bishop Blair announced the Diocesan
Review Board will "revisit" allegations made by a woman who
told the seven-member panel in June that she had been sexually and physically
abused during her childhood by a number of Catholic priests, including
Father Robinson. The Blade does not identify victims of sexual abuse.
The Blade reported Sunday that the woman's detailed statements last year
about Satanic rituals and sadomasochistic orgies by Toledo-area Catholic
priests led a member of the review board and a local victim's advocate
to take the case to the state attorney general's office.
The Diocesan board member, Dr. Robert Cooley, was removed from the panel
for his actions.
After reviewing the information, the state contacted the
Lucas County prosecutor's office and cold-case investigators from that
office and Toledo police to take another look at the 24-year-old murder
case in which Father Robinson originally was a suspect.
While investigators could not substantiate or dismiss the woman's allegations,
her mention of Father Robinson prompted them to reopen the case.
On Monday, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, a victims'
advocacy group, said the diocese did not follow its own protocol when
it failed to place Father Robinson on leave after the woman's statements
to the board or when the murder case was reopened.
A diocesan spokesman told The Blade in response that the priest had not
been suspended because "there were no credible allegations on him."
But yesterday afternoon, the diocese issued a statement attributed to
Bishop Blair that said two diocesan investigators will continue to check
into the statements of the woman.
When the church inquiry is complete, the Diocesan Review Board "will
revisit the allegations in light of the investigation results that are
presented to them," according to the statement.
That was followed later by the announcement that Father Robinson had been
placed on leave.
SNAP officials were glad to hear that the priest had been suspended.
"Well it's about time," said Barbara Blaine, a former Toledoan
and SNAP founder. "It should have been done when the victim, Jane
Doe, came forward back in June, 2003."
"I think it's a step in the right direction," said Claudia Vercellotti,
local SNAP co-coordinator, although "it's extremely belated."
Another Catholic priest, The Blade has learned, was mentioned prominently
in the Toledo woman's written and verbal statements to the review board.
Chet J. Warren, a former member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales
religious order, has since been defrocked.
Mr. Warren of Sylvania has been accused of sexually abusing at least eight
minor girls in the 1970s. He was sued in April, 2002, by Teresa Bombrys,
now of Hilliard, Ohio. She claimed in her lawsuit that is pending in Lucas
County Common Pleas Court that Mr. Warren sexually molested her for four
years beginning when she was in the fourth grade.
Ms. Blaine said Mr. Warren began molesting her when she was 13, and her
suit was settled out of court by the Toledo diocese and the Oblates in
She said at least two other victims have told her about ritual abuse by
Mr. Warren and that she or other SNAP officials have been contacted by
more than a dozen alleged victims of Mr. Warren.
Catherine Hoolahan, an attorney representing a dozen clients with pending
lawsuits against the Toledo diocese, said three claim they were abused
during rituals and Satanic rites.
"It's scary stuff. You don't think of that as happening in Toledo,
Ohio," Ms. Hoolahan said.
The Toledo Diocesan Review Board will meet today for a regularly scheduled
session, chairman Frank Link said yesterday. The review board's creation
was mandated by the U.S. Bishops Dallas Charter of 2002.
A person familiar with the diocese's investigation said Mr. Warren will
be one of the main topics of discussion at today's review board session,
adding that "there are many more victims of Chet Warren than have
been reported so far."
Mr. Warren could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The Rev. James Cryan, head of the Oblates' Toledo-Detroit province, could
not be reached for comment about the allegations against Mr. Warren.
Father Robinson, a diocesan priest of 40 years and known by many clerics
and parishioners as a quiet, gentle man, was questioned for several hours
Friday afternoon at his tidy brick home next to the Toledo Police Scott
Park District Station and arrested about 10:15 p.m.
Investigators say the priest murdered Sister Margaret Ann, strangling
her to death. Her body had been wrapped in an altar cloth and stabbed
up to 32 times in the neck and torso.
Sister Margaret Ann's body was posed to look as if she had been sexually
abused, but the cold-case squad that reopened the investigation said there
was no evidence of sexual activity.
Detective Steve Forrester of the Toledo police and Tom Ross, an investigator
for the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, said Saturday that they believe
that Father Robinson acted alone and that the nun's murder was part of
a religious ceremony.
Police in 1980 claimed that they lacked the evidence to arrest the priest,
and the cold-case squad said it found something "startling"
when investigators took a new look at the physical evidence. They said
developments in "blood transfer patterns" technology will prove
that a weapon belonging to Father Robinson was responsible.
Father Robinson's attorney, John Thebes, said his client maintains his
innocence and the effort under way by some community members to help post
the priest's bail has been "very positive and heartwarming."
Mr. Thebes said many people who aren't related to Father Robinson are
willing to put up their homes to help him post bond.
But, he said, there is a lot of paperwork, such as property deeds and
mortgage notes, that comes with the process.
Bishop Blair, who has said he is deeply saddened by Father Robinson's
arrest and the reports of ritual abuse, leaves today for Rome with Auxiliary
Bishop Robert Donnelly for their semiannual meeting with Pope John Paul
Blade staff writers Christina Hall and Robin Erb contributed to this report.
Contact David Yonke at