Funeral plans for Father Robinson creating controversy

By Joe Thompson
NBC 24
July 6, 2014

[with video]

TOLEDO -- A plan to hold a traditional funeral reserved for Catholic priests for Father Gerald Robinson is raising controversy among parishioners. Robinson is the priest who was convicted in 2006 of murdering Sister Margaret Ann Pahl just before Easter in 1980.

Despite being found guilty of killing Sister Pahl, Father Gerald Robinson remained an ordained priest in the Roman Catholic Church until his death last Friday. In a statement released Saturday, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo said Robinson will receive the ceremony reserved for all priests at the time of their passing.

Full statement from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo:

Father Gerald Robinson, a priest of the Diocese of Toledo died July 4, 2014. He was ordained May 30, 1964 and served across the diocese during his ministry.

At the time of his death, Father Robinson was in the custody of the Ohio Department of Corrections following his conviction for murder in 2006.

Father Robinson's funeral will follow the usual protocol for a diocesan priest's funeral. Diocesan Administrator Father Charles Ritter said "Whether in the eyes of God Father Robinson was or was not guilty of this crime, I do not know. I do know that he is the work of God's hands, as are we all. He was a sinner, as are we all. He was a baptized member of the body of Christ, and he was, and remains an ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church. This is the context in which his funeral will take place. “

At this time funeral arrangements are pending.

The funeral plans aren’t sitting well with everyone.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this is really happening.”

That’s what Claudia Vercellotti told NBC 24 over the phone Sunday. She’s the cofounder of the Toledo branch of SNAP—which stands for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Vercellotti believes any funeral plans for Robinson should be private, with no formal ceremony.

“To honor a murderer, a violent, violent murderer, of a fragile, elderly woman, is dismissive, marginalizing and minimizing all crime victims,” Vercellotti said.

But not all Toledo Catholics are against the planned funeral arrangements. A couple of parishioners we spoke to after Sunday Mass at St. Martin de Porres in central Toledo believe the diocese is following the principles of their faith.

“I think forgiveness has a cost,” said Sandy Harding. “And I think if we’re a church of forgiveness, it may be difficult,…,but we’re praying for the man’s soul. It needs prayer. What else would we do?”

“He does deserve all the blessings that the Church can provide through prayer and support,” said Tom Williams.

It’s a complicated final chapter for the man some view as a cold blooded killer, and others a man of God.



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