Web Alert on Priest Called Not Sufficient
Group Criticizes Catholic Officials
By George Pawlaczyk
May 22, 2007
St. Louis — Catholic church officials in Cincinnati should have warned parishioners there and in other cities, including Belleville, that the Rev. Kenneth J. Roberts was improperly posing as a priest and mingling with children, said the head of the St. Louis chapter of a national group supporting victims of sex abuse by clergymen.
But a spokesman for the Cincinnati Catholic Diocese said the warning was promptly posted on a Web site.
In 1998, Roberts, 76, was prohibited by church officials from performing priestly duties following accusations of sexual molestation of minors.
Roberts has a national reputation from the publications of at least nine books he wrote, including "From Playboy to Priest," and made headlines here in 2003 when a lawsuit filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court by a man identified only as "John Doe" accused him of sexually molesting him at St. Mary's Catholic School in Belleville in 1984, when the man was 13. For years during the 1980s, Roberts lived in a church operated home in Florissant, Mo.
At simultaneous news conferences Monday in St. Louis and Cincinnati, leaders of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests blasted church officials for not alerting church-goers after the Ohio diocese received a written warning in April from the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops in Dallas.
A copy of a report from the office of Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk concerning the conference's warning to Cincinnati church officials was distributed Monday to reporters. It stated, "(Father) Roberts has been celebrating home Masses and associating with children and teenagers, both in violation of his suspension and earlier restrictions."
That warning should have generated alerts to parishioners in cities where Roberts has lived, said David Clohessy, director of SNAP in St. Louis.
"They shouldn't just be sending memos to each other. This (man) is ... nationally known, very popular (and) charming. ... He spent more than a decade in the St. Louis area. I think, frankly, church officials should be warning families in Dallas, St. Louis, Belleville, and Ohio," he said.
"For all we know, he could be coming back here to visit people he befriended."
Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the Cincinnati Diocese, said the warning was immediately posted on the diocesan Web site, which should have served to notify churchgoers.
"If we thought we had a greater responsibility, we would have done it," said Andriacco."The primary purpose of these notices is so that the priests know. So if a (suspicious) priest comes and says 'Hey, I'll help you out, if you need someone here,' and it's not somebody you should not be using, then you know."
Andriacco said Roberts' whereabouts are not known by church officials.
However, Tom Leibel, director of the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center in Norwood, a Cincinnati suburb, said Roberts may have lived there more than a year ago. Leibel said that the last he had heard, Roberts moved to an apartment on Moeller Avenue in Norwood across the street from the center, which is a privately run religious retreat.
Ohio motor vehicle records show that Roberts has a driver's license issued in September of last year listing 5440 Moeller Ave., the same address as the center. According to the record, the license was suspended in February until May 2010.
Dan Frondorf, co-leader of the Cincinnati chapter of SNAP, said, "Knowing that (priests removed from ministry for sex abuse of minors) cannot be cured and are likely to reoffend, I think the bishop has a responsibility to tell the people in the pews that's there's a potential danger."
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2625.
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