St. Charles Borromeo Parish Council Weighs Whether to Remove Plaque Honoring Accused Priest

By Michael O'Malley
Plain Dealer
June 14, 2011

This plaque honoring the late Rev. Nicholas Monaghan is in the vestibule of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Parma. The plaque was placed there in 1957.

In the wake of allegations by women who say they were molested as school girls by a priest at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Parma, the parish is considering whether to remove a plaque in the church that honors the late priest and take his name off a parish building.

Recent stories in The Plain Dealer detailed allegations from seven women who said they were groped and kissed by the Rev. Nicholas Monaghan back in the 1950s and '60s when they were seventh- and eighth-graders at St. Charles school.

They said Monaghan fondled their breasts, kissed them and, in some cases, stuck his tongue in their mouths.

On Sunday, the Rev. John Carlin, current pastor of St. Charles, distributed letters to parishioners at Masses, reporting on parish leaders' response to the allegations.

"Of course, Monsignor Monaghan cannot respond," Carlin said in his letter. "However, at the present time, there seems to be a preponderance of evidence that inappropriate behavior did take place."

Carlin, who could not be reached Monday, said in his letter that he met with the executive board of the parish council Wednesday and they decided to "wait and see if there are any additional allegations or further information" before they decide whether to remove the plaque and Monaghan's name from the building.

The letter noted that a number of veteran and former parishioners contacted the church to praise Monaghan. "However," the letter said, "the severity of the allegations demands our full attention and an appropriate response."

Barbara Johnson, in a Plain Dealer story earlier this month, was the first woman to publicly make an accusation against Monaghan. But before she went public, she came to Cleveland in 2008 to tell the Cleveland Catholic Diocese about her encounters with the monsignor.

Johnson, who had been undergoing therapy for seven months over the abuses, told the diocese she wanted the plaque bearing Monaghan's image removed from the church vestibule and his name taken off Monaghan Hall.

The diocese refused, saying the accused had died more than 40 years ago and Johnson's complaint was too old to be proven. However, it has paid for Johnson's therapy for more than two years.

Janet Wilson, 72, of Parma, who identified herself as a St. Charles parishioner, on Monday called for the immediate removal of the plaque and name and questioned why additional allegations are necessary before the parish board acts.

She said she called the priest and said, "'How many do you need Father Carlin? Isn't one enough?'

"I told him, 'I want the name off the building and the plaque off the wall. We cannot revere and honor a pedophile.'

"My heart goes out to these women," she said in an interview. "We have to give these women some closure, some peace. Why not make an instant decision and take that name and plaque down now?"

Diocese spokesman Robert Tayek said the women should contact victims' assistance officials at the diocesan offices in downtown Cleveland so that the diocese can hear their stories and take any appropriate action.

Citing Carlin's letter that said "there seems to be a preponderance of evidence that inappropriate behavior did take place," Tayek said, "It may appear that way, according to the newspapers, but we haven't got it yet."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4893

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