Priest Who Served at St. Francis Left Note Admitting Abuse before His Feb. Death
By Nolan Rosenkrans
March 26, 2015
Catholic church leaders are looking for other potential victims of a now-deceased priest who once served at St. Francis de Sales High School and who they confirmed abused a minor 14 years ago.
|The Rev. James H. Roth.|
The Rev. James H. Roth, 61, died Feb. 11 at Hospice of Northwest Ohio after taking a high dose of insulin. Though his death has not been confirmed as a suicide, he left a note admitting to the allegation, said the Rev. Ken McKenna, provincial of the Toledo-Detroit Province of the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales.
The survivor, who is now an adult and was not a St. Francis student, reported the abuse to the Oblates in January. Father Roth, who was at the time of the accusation working for a Catholic school board in Toronto, was immediately removed from his position, police were informed, and an internal investigation initiated, Father McKenna said.
Father Roth was in a drug study for diabetes, and the drug warned of side effects that included depression and suicidal thoughts, according to the Oblates. Coworkers had noticed mood changes. Father McKenna said it’s unclear whether the drugs impaired his judgement, or if revelation of the abuse led to his death.
He acknowledged that the note would give the impression that Father Roth killed himself because of the allegation, but said he was waiting for an official ruling by the coroner’s office on the manner of death.
The Oblates, as well as the Toledo and Detroit Catholic dioceses, announced the accusations on Wednesday through their websites, the Catholic Chronicle, and a website -- www.tdprovince.org -- created by the Oblates that solicits further information or any other accusations of abuse.
“There's always the possibility of other victims,” Father McKenna said. “But right now only the one allegation has come forward.”
The survivor told the Oblates he was sexually abused on multiple occasions by Father Roth 14 years ago. Father Roth worked at St. Francis de Sales High School from 1976 to 1987 and from 1995 to 2004 as a faculty member and administrator.
Among his administrative roles was guidance counseling, said the Rev. Geoffrey Rose, who is currently vice president of the school and will take over July 1 from longtime president the Rev. Ronald Olszewski.
“He was a beloved minister, so I think that it's always difficult for people when we find out something of their brokenness and we have to kind of reconcile the good we know they did and this awfulness,” Father Rose said.
The survivor, who was nine or 10 at the time, was not a student at the school, according to the Oblates, but was a family friend.
Father Roth also worked at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Monroe and in Utah.
Father McKenna said the Oblates waited until now to publicize the allegation because Father Roth was not a threat to anyone by the time the allegation was confirmed. The Oblates wanted to coordinate a public acknowledgement between themselves and area dioceses.
The Diocese of Toledo’s chancellor, the Rev. Monte J. Hoyles, said that Father Roth never worked for the diocese, and that the diocese was only recently made aware that the abuse allegation was confirmed.
“[The Oblates] have provided a place and the contact information to come forward and we would encourage that,” he said, noting the reporting process through the website www.tdprovince.org.
Claudia Vercellotti, spokesman for the Toledo chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the public acknowledgment of the sexual abuse came too late and not enough was done.
“My question squarely is to Bishop Thomas. What are you going to do about this because you haven't done enough. You haven't done close to enough,” she said. “It's a little too convenient that they wait for him to die.”
Ms. Vercellotti also said the diocese needs to provide “full, unabridged detail” of the accusation.
“Can't we all agree to not molest children and cover it up?” she said.
Ms. Vercellotti said the victim who came forward is courageous and hopes that any other potential victims will report the abuse.
Staff writer Taylor Dungjen contributed to this report.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.