A Slap at Loyal Catholics

Toledo Blade [Toledo OH]
July 27, 2005

IN A blatant show of arrogance, the Toledo Catholic Diocese just doesn't get it. It has allowed a priest who served 21 months in prison for possessing child pornography to move back into a church-owned apartment near Corpus Christi University Parish. There's more: The diocese continued to keep him on the payroll while he was incarcerated.

That's a slap in the face to parishioners who have been asked to believe the church isn't coddling molesters.

State law allows authorities to force convicted sex offenders to move when they live within 1,000 feet of a school. So it logically follows that Stephen G. Rogers, former Central Catholic High School religion teacher and associate pastor, shouldn't live a mere 100 yards from the Dorr Street church that caters to University of Toledo students and hosts events for young children.

This case didn't accidently slip through the cracks. Both Toledo Diocese Bishop Leonard Blair and federal law enforcement officials signed off on the move. The feds conducted a raid and seized a large volume of child pornography from the apartment in 2002. Lord knows why the bishop approved the move, and the public has a right to know why federal officials didn't deny it.

At a time when the diocese was facing dire financial problems, it kept Rogers on the payroll while he was in prison. Although he is still a priest unless the Vatican decides to laicize him, he cannot represent himself as a priest, celebrate Mass, or serve anyone else the sacraments.

The diocese will soon stop paying him now that he has full-time work with the Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity. But paying him at all reflects the diocese's disdain for its faithful parishioners, especially when it laid off 11 people in May, 2004.

How many jobs could have been saved, and could at least one of the now-closed Catholic schools have remained open, if the church had better priorities for parishioners' money?

Nobody's suggesting that the church put priests who are convicted sex offenders out on the street. However, the church hierarchy has acted to harbor sex offenders and their sins rather than protect and comfort the innocent.