Diocese of Toledo Names Seven Deceased Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse
By Nicki Gorny
April 29, 2020
The Diocese of Toledo on Wednesday released the names of seven deceased clerics who are credibly accused of sexual abuse.
In each case an accuser had come forward after the cleric had died.
The Diocesan Review Board considered their cases this year and last year. The diocese for years declined to name or consider allegations against clerics in such cases “as they can neither defend themselves against the accusation nor possibly be a future threat to anyone if the allegation were true,” according to an explanation the diocese provided for years on its website. But in April, 2019, the diocese announced that it would begin to put this category of cases before the Diocesan Review Board.
That process is now complete, the diocese announced on Wednesday.
“Bishop Daniel Thomas determined that it was critical to be completely transparent in our dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors, and to assist victims who are searching for their abuser by providing the most complete information available,” Kelly Donaghy, senior communications director for the diocese, said in an email.
“We needed to deal with these cases as fairly and objectively as possible by allowing the independent Review Board to examine all available evidence in order to make the best possible recommendation as to whether or not a case involving an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against a cleric after his death is substantiated or unsubstantiated.”
The Diocesan Review Board considered 14 cases in 2019 and 2020, according to the diocese. The board substantiated allegations against seven, whom it recommended that the diocese add to its Clergy Status Report. It determined there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations against the remaining seven, whose names it recommended not be included in the Clergy Status Report.
The Clergy Status Report identifies credibly accused clerics who have served in the Diocese of Toledo. It is posted on the diocesan website.
Bishop Thomas accepted the recommendations of the Diocesan Review Board in all 14 cases, according to the diocese.
The dates of the abuse range from 38 years ago to 76 years ago, with no abuse reported in these cases beyond 1982, according to the diocese. The diocese is not detailing the year or years of the abuse specifically for each priest, in line with its handling of already named clerics.
The priests whose names were added on Wednesday are:
¦ Karl L. Burger, who was ordained in 1930 and died in 1991
¦ Albert A. Fate, who was ordained in 1913 and died in 1963
¦ Frederick A. Garand, who was ordained in 1953 and died in 1982
¦ Richard S. Liston, who was ordained in 1975 and died in 1994
¦ Alexander Pinter, who was ordained in 1943 and died in 1978
¦ George A. Schmit, who was ordained in 1935 and died in 1984
¦ Stanislaus Wojciechowski, who was ordained in 1937 and died in 1979
Assignment histories for each cleric are listed on the diocesan website. The Blade has previously reported on allegations against the Revs. Garand, Liston, and Pinter.
Two well-known clerics are notably absent from the list after recent consideration by the review board: Monsignor Jerome Schmit, who died in 1997, and Monsignor Michael Doyle, who died in 1987.
The Diocesan Review Board found that Msgr. Schmit had been misidentified in an initial allegation that arose after his death; the accuser later identified his brother, George Schmit, Ms. Donaghy said. Allegations against George Schmit were considered and substantiated in 2020.
Regarding the allegation against Msgr. Doyle, Ms. Donaghy said the review board was “unable to substantiate the allegation based on available evidence.”
The Diocese of Toledo appears to have reached a settlement with a plaintiff who accused Msgr. Doyle of sexual abuse in a lawsuit filed in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas in 2002.
While Ms. Donaghy said the diocese is unable to comment on the particulars of the allegation, she wrote in an email that “resolution of a civil case does not constitute an admission of liability. Upon thorough review of the case, the Review Board determined, by clear majority, that there was not enough evidence to substantiate the allegation, and recommended that Father Doyle’s name not be included on the clergy status report.”
Claudia Vercellotti is a local leader with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. She criticized the diocese's claims of transparency, which she said are misleading given both the in-house nature of review boards and the “piecemeal and parcel” way she's seen local bishops approach allegations of sexual abuse in her years of advocacy.
Even with the addition of these names of the Clergy Status Report, she pointed out that some religious order priests and all non-ordained representatives of the diocese are not included.
She specifically called attention to allegations against Msgr. Doyle, against whom more than one victim came forward. SNAP has for years been calling on the Diocese of Toledo to remove a prominent sign identifying a wing of the Pastoral Center as Monsignor Doyle Hall.
The settlement “was the closest thing to restorative justice this victim had,” said Ms. Vercellotti, referring to the plaintiff who filed her suit in 2002. “Now to go back and say there isn't evidence is a slap in the face.”
The Diocesan Review Board also considered an additional case of a deceased priest whose name was previously included in the Clergy Status Report, but removed upon his death in 2013.
“It is our understanding that the decision was made because at the time of the cleric’s death the Diocese was not yet aware of whether the case had been substantiated, and because the cleric no longer posed a threat,” Ms. Donaghy said.
The review board recommended returning John L. McCullen to the Clergy Status Report.
Father McCullen was ordained in the Diocese of Toledo in 1944, but took a leave of absence in 1961. Allegations against him stem from an incident outside the diocese in 1979, and were previously substantiated in the diocese where the abuse occurred.
The Diocesan Review Board was established in 2004. It is currently an 11-member board that acts as “a confidential consultative body to the Bishop in regard to clerics and diocesan staff and volunteers who have been accused of sexual abuse of a minor.”
The diocese has said its review board will continue to consider any allegations that arise after an accused cleric has died.