Survivors Group Visits Toledo Diocese

By Tk Barger
The Blade
December 17, 2013

Barbara Blaine, left, president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and Toledo SNAP spokesman Claudia Vercellotti stand outside the Catholic Diocese offices downtown Tuesday before delivering a screwdriver and pen to the diocese. The two, both survivors of sexual abuse, were objecting to local Catholic buildings continuing to bear the names of alleged abusers. ‘It's marginalizing and its minimizing to survivors,’ Ms. Vercellotti said.

A day after the Catholic Diocese of Toledo’s former bishop was installed as archbishop in Hartford, Conn., two prominent members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests went to the diocesan offices in Toledo to present a pen and a screwdriver as symbols calling for change.

Barbara Blaine, SNAP’s founder and president, a Chicagoan who formerly lived in Toledo, and Claudia Vercellotti, a Toledo SNAP leader, went into the Catholic Center at 1933 Spielbusch Ave. on Tuesday and gave the items to a receptionist.

Before making their presentation, the women stood on the sidewalk in front of the diocesan offices and held SNAP posters and a board of school-age pictures of people, including Ms. Blaine and Ms. Vercellotti, who say they were abused by clergy.

Ms. Vercellotti pointed to a prominent sign on a wing of the Catholic Center building designating it as “Monsignor Doyle Hall,” saying that the diocese paid a settlement to a woman who alleged she was abused as a child by Msgr. Michael Doyle, who died in 1987.

“That’s one of the signs that needs to come down. So we brought them a screwdriver to do it,” she said.

They also called for the renaming of the Msgr. Schmit CYO Athletic Complex and the removal of an honorary street sign near the Mud Hens’ downtown ballpark naming it “Monsignor Jerome Schmit Way.” Monsignor Schmit was a prominent Catholic cleric who, according to court testimony, interrupted a 1980 police interrogation of the Rev. Gerald Robinson for murder.

The investigation of Robinson for the murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl essentially halted after the interruption, but the priest was arrested 24 years later and convicted in May, 2006.

Ms. Vercellotti said, “While these two men may be dead, [for] the loved ones and survivors that are out there, the ripple effect still continues, and that’s why we believe so strongly, in the wake of Bishop [Leonard] Blair’s departure, that absolutely these signs need to come down.”

As for the pen, “We think that change comes in a pen stroke,” Ms. Vercellotti said. “Maybe in 2014 it’s a keystroke.” SNAP is asking for changes “that require transparency, openness, and honesty; that require outing these perpetrators and working closely with law enforcement,” Ms. Vercellotti said.

Sally Oberski, the diocese’s director of communications, said, “I’m aware that they left those items with our receptionist,” but she did not comment further on the SNAP protest.

Ms. Blaine said, “We’re asking the diocesan officials now, today, to take action that shows that they want to see children protected.”

The diocese’s College of Consultors must pick a diocesan administrator, a man who will head the diocese until a new bishop is appointed, by Dec, 24. It could be a year or more before a new bishop is named. The consultors’ first meeting is scheduled for today; some members of the committee had traveled to Hartford for now Archbishop Blair’s installation, so the college could not convene sooner.


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