Victims of abuse by Catholic clergy call on Ohio attorney general for action
By Sheila Vilvens And Jessie Balmert
October 08, 2018
|Judy Jones, SNAP's Midwest associate director and Steven Spaner, a SNAP volunteer, in downtown Cincinnati Monday October 8, 2018. Both are from St. Louis.|
Photo by Cara Owsley
It's time for Ohio to investigate sex crimes by Catholic Church clergy, says a group of abuse survivors.
SNAP, short for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, protested outside Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's Cincinnati office Monday afternoon. Three SNAP protestors showed up holding pictures of children from around the country who say they were abused.
SNAP is calling on DeWine to follow the lead of other states that have recently investigated clergy sex crimes and cover-ups.
Last week, Michigan's attorney general seized abuse records in each of that state's seven dioceses.
But DeWine's office says Ohio law doesn't allow for statewide investigations and grand juries, such as the one that revealed years of abuse in Pennsylvania.
Under Ohio law, local police and prosecutors must investigate crimes – by priests or anyone else – committed in their county.
That happened in 2003 when then-Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk pleaded no contest to charges that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati failed to report child sexual abuse by priests in Hamilton County.
"There is no statewide grand jury mechanism in state law," DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said.
That's true in Kentucky as well. Democratic attorney general Andy Beshear supports a proposed law to change that. The proposal would allow the attorney general to use a special grand jury to investigate crimes across county lines.
Democrat Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney running for state attorney general, says DeWine could be doing more. Dettelbach said DeWine could use his power to investigate charitable organizations to look into church officials. Or DeWine could proactively reach out to local prosecutors to lead a statewide investigation.
Judy Jones, SNAP's Midwest associate director, said the church needs to name every employee, deacon or other church official accused of sexual abuse.
Four of Ohio's six dioceses (Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown and Steubenville) say they will release names of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics, according to SNAP.
The other two dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, say they already publish this information.
SNAP, in a release, said it believes this should have been done years ago and that bishops should also disclose where these "potentially dangerous men" are now.
About 50 of nearly 200 US bishops have posted names of alleged predator priests, some starting as long as 16 years ago, according to SNAP.
At least 143 Ohio Catholic priests have been accused of molesting children, but much remains hidden about these crimes and cover-ups, according to the SNAP release. The group places the blame for lack of transparency with the attorney general and local prosecutor.
SNAP also wants to eliminate any statute of limitations that prevents civil cases from going forward. Current Ohio law allows lawsuits up to 12 years after a child victim turns 18 years old.
"Victims want their day in court," Jones said.
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, the Republican running for attorney general this fall, agreed with DeWine: Ohio can't do exactly what Pennsylvania did.
However, "I will use the full power of the attorney general’s office to protect Ohio’s children and bring to justice child molesters and their enablers," Yost said in a statement. "I will fight injustice wherever it occurs.”
Dettelbach said victims of abuse deserve justice, not more excuses and dodges.
“If the evidence supports an investigation, you can bet I'll pursue one, and I will work with whoever is actually willing to stand up and fight for the truth to do it," Dettelbach said in a statement.