Toledo Priest Placed on Leave, Accused of Violating Sexual Abuse Policy
By Holly Tuey
Toledo News Now
May 22, 2015
TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -
A Toledo Catholic priest has been placed on administrative leave following allegations that he violated the diocesan code on sexual abuse of minors.
Lucas County Children Services (LCCS) is conducting an investigation involving Reverend Samuel Punnoor, who has served in the Diocese of Toledo since April of 2011.
Bishop Daniel E. Thomas placed Father Punnoor on leave Friday, after he returned from visiting his home diocese in India. The diocese says it learned on May 6 of the allegation that Punnoor violated “Appendix A: Diocese of Toledo Code of Pastoral Conduct” of the diocesan “To Protect and to Heal: Policy on Sexual Abuse of Minors.” Father Punnoor was in India from April 26 until May 21.
Punnoor was placed on administrative leave, during which he is not allowed to exercise public ministry, administer any of the Sacraments, wear clerical attire or present himself publicly as a priest.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, Toledo spokeswoman Claudia Vercellotti says the diocese needs to be clearer about the allegation against Punnoor.
"Let's call it, let's name it, let's claim it, let's not piecemeal and parcel it. The stakes are too high, we're talking about the safety of kids,” said Vercellotti. "We're calling on the ask and obtain the passport of the priest so that there is no international flight risk."
Vercellotti says SNAP is also asking the bishop to do an aggressive outreach campaign.
"The bishop has sat on information for over two weeks. That's a two week lead time, in effect, the bishop could have been doing an aggressive outreach to parents, and administrators everywhere that this cleric has worked,” she said.
Parishioners and community members who wished to remain anonymous said they find this to be a sad situation and it's too soon to jump to any conclusions.
The diocese says this is the first time it has received any such allegation regarding Father Punnoor and it is cooperating with LCCS.
Punnoor was serving as parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Maumee since July of 2013. He previously served at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish and Corpus Christi University Parish, both in Toledo. He was also involved with St. Joseph schools and Central Catholic High School in Toledo.
The diocese says when Punnoor first came to the Diocese of Toledo from his home Diocese of Pathanamthitta in India, he passed the necessary background checks and completed the required training.
At this time, Punnoor has not been formally charged with a crime. An ecclesiastical investigation will be opened once the diocese learns the findings from the LCCS investigation.
Anyone with information that could help in the investigation should contact LCCS at 419-213-2273 or Toledo Diocesan Case Manager Frank DiLallo at 419-243-2150.
See the full statement from the diocese here.
This isn't the first time this year allegations have been made against a Toledo-area priest. Read more: Group says former St. Francis priest committed sexual misconduct, asks victims to come forward