5 Disciplined by Church to Lose Teacher Licenses
State Action Related to 'Credible' Allegations of Child Molestation

By Jim Provance
Toledo Blade
November 10, 2006

Columbus - The State Board of Education plans on Tuesday to revoke the teaching certificates of five current or former priests who have been disciplined by their respective Roman Catholic dioceses following child molestation allegations.

They are not fighting the state action. In all five cases, their respective dioceses had come to the conclusion that the allegations against them were in the least "credible."

No complaints, however, were ever filed with the state, and none of the other mechanisms in place to monitor licensees detected them. None is currently teaching. One holds administrative certificates making him eligible to work in public schools while the rest hold credentials strictly for private and religious schools.

They include:

• Robert J. Yeager, 68, who has been permanently removed from the ministry by the Vatican. Having last served as principal of Cardinal Stritch High School in Oregon in the 1990s, Mr. Yeager holds permanent certificates to work as a public high school principal, superintendent, and school counselor. He retired last year after being accused of abuse that allegedly occurred 30 years ago.

• Joseph M. Schmelzer, 58, who last served as superintendent of St. Mary of the Assumption School in Van Wert. He was banned from public ministry by the Toledo diocese after being sued in 2003 for abuse that allegedly occurred 20 years ago.

• Bernard A. Kokocinski, 68, who was barred from ministry by the Toledo diocese after the church settled a 2002 lawsuit accusing him of raping a boy in a Fremont rectory in 1975.

• Richard M. Unwin, 53, a former high school principal who was suspended in 2003 by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati because of a sexual misconduct allegation dating back 18 years.

• Samuel E. Ritchey, 63, who was removed from ministry by the Diocese of Columbus after a church review panel found credible an allegation of abuse that reportedly occurred in 1977 at Fisher Catholic High School.

" When we find that individuals are not conducting themselves according to ethical standards, we take appropriate action to ensure they are not dealing with children in schools," said Department of Education spokesman J.C. Benton. He stressed that just one-tenth of 1 percent of Ohio's licensed teachers ever face disciplinary action.

The board has revoked the licenses of six of 10 people brought to its attention by The Blade in an October series. The board had already revoked the non-public school certificate of Stephen G. Rogers, 58, a former religion teacher and associate pastor at Toledo's Central Catholic High School who was convicted on child pornography charges and is a registered sex offender.

Investigations into the other four are continuing, said Mr. Benton.

"Why did it take an investigative journalist to bring these people to the state's attention?" asked Claudia Vercellotti, Toledo coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "The people leading the charge to kill [a bill allowing lawsuits in decades-old cases] were six Ohio Catholic bishops who told lawmakers and communities around the state there was no problem, when all the while they knew the very licenses they helped these child molesters get were still intact."

Contact Jim Provance at: or 614-221-0496.


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