Toledo Diocese quietly updates accused clergy list, includes new name

By Nicki Gorny
Toledo Blade
February 04, 2020

The Diocese of Toledo quietly updated its list last year of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse amid calls for transparency in a rekindled sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.

The update included a new name: Paul Knapp, a religious order priest who served as the associate pastor of St. Gerard Parish in Lima, Ohio, between 1981 and 1983.

The majority of dioceses and religious orders in the country have released lists of clergy who have been found credibly accused of sexual abuse while under their jurisdiction. The lists are an effort toward transparency that have drawn particular attention since August, 2018, when a grand jury report detailing the extent of decades of abuse and coverup in Pennsylvania called renewed attention to a sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.

This scrutiny led to the release of a searchable database last week by ProPublica. It identifies U.S. Catholic clergy who have been deemed credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct. It also shed new light on the updates to the Toledo list made by the diocese months ago.

Spokesman Kelly Donaghy told The Blade on Monday that the Diocese of Toledo updated its clergy status report in April, Child Abuse Prevention Month, and brought the update to the attention of priests and of parishioners via weekly bulletins. She declined to provide details about the allegation regarding Knapp’s time in the diocese.

Claudia Vercellotti, a local leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, criticized the quiet release of the additional name.

“Just slipping it out as though it’s always been there is ludicrous,” she said. “How do you protect people like that?”

The Archdiocese of Baltimore released Knapp’s name in 2002, describing an allegation that was brought to their attention by his order, the Redemptorists, in 1993. It involved sexual abuse by the priest about 20 years prior, according to the archdiocese. Mr. Knapp served there as an associate pastor of a parish in Annapolis, Md., between 1973 to 1981.

The Redemptorists on Monday confirmed that Mr. Knapp was ordained in June, 1972; took a leave of absence from the order in December, 1993; and was dismissed from the order and from the priesthood in 1995. They did not reply to an additional request for information pertaining to allegations of sexual abuse on Monday.

In the updated clergy status report the local diocese posted to its website in April, it added assignment histories for the clerics it names and clarified the circumstances under which it does and does not identify those who are accused.

“We are including assignment histories on the website because it is a best practice and it was our decision to make the website as transparent, accessible and complete as possible for everyone,” Ms. Donaghy said in an email.

The diocese had previously written that allegations had been made against 46 clerics as of December, 2013, but only 20 individuals were named. The updated list now contains 24 names, including Mr. Knapp’s name, plus three other clerics who faced allegations of abuse that were widely covered in the media.

The diocese had not previously released the names of credibly accused extern priests, or those ordained under a religious order and therefore not incardinated in the Diocese of Toledo. The updated status report clarifies that it now does include those clerics against whom substantiated allegations have been received pertaining to their time in the Diocese of Toledo.

This category includes Mr. Knapp.

But it “would not necessarily include clerics who resided/were present for a time in the territory of the Diocese of Toledo but were serving in a ministry or apostolate sponsored by their community or who were not immediately subject to the supervision or jurisdiction of the Bishop of Toledo,” according to a diocese status update report.

The list excludes clerics who have been credibly accused in other jurisdictions, and who spent time in the local diocese before or after the incidents from which those accusations stem.

In this category are Jesuits James F. Gates, Patrick L. McLaughlin, Thomas J. Powers and Charles E. Sullivan; Oblates of St. Francis de Sales Robert J. Hermley and James H. Roth; and Franciscan Felipe Baldonado.

Their names are among those that can be found in the searchable database by ProPublica. SNAP has previously called for the inclusion of some of them on the diocese’s local list.

Ms. Donaghy said in an email that the responsibility for publishing or maintaining records relating to any credible accusations in these cases lies with the religious congregation or diocese in which the cleric was incardinated.

Ms. Vercellotti disagreed.

“It is so dangerous to minimize the sexual abuse of children by saying, ‘Oh, that’s an order priest, that’s a Jesuit, that’s a Franciscan,” she said. “They were a priest. They have some connection here. They should be named. Period.”

The Diocese of Toledo also announced in its updated clergy status report that it would bring before a review board cases in which allegations were brought forward after the accused died, to determine whether their names should be added to the list as well. This is the practice going forward, in line with its current Policy for the Protection of Minors and Young People, according to the diocese.

The diocese had previously stated that it would not name these individuals “as they can neither defend themselves against the accusation nor possibly be a future threat to anyone if the allegation were true.”



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.