Catholic priest charged in the 1980 ceremonial killing
of a nun was placed on a leave of absence yesterday
after Bishop Leonard Blair made a "pastoral visit" to
the Rev. Gerald Robinson in the Lucas County jail.
Bishop Blair's action bars the 66-year-old priest
from public ministry - including celebrating Holy
Communion or any other sacrament. Father Robinson
remained in jail last night in lieu of $200,000 bond.
He was arrested Friday and arraigned Monday on a
murder charge in the April 5, 1980, death of Sister
Margaret Ann Pahl in the chapel of the then Mercy
Hospital. The murder occurred on Holy Saturday, one day
before Easter and the nun's 72nd birthday.
In a statement released yesterday, Bishop Blair
announced the Diocesan Review Board will "revisit"
allegations made by a woman who told the seven-member
panel in June that she had been sexually and physically
abused during her childhood by a number of Catholic
priests, including Father Robinson. The Blade does not
identify victims of sexual abuse.
The Blade reported Sunday that the woman's detailed
statements last year about Satanic rituals and
sadomasochistic orgies by Toledo-area Catholic priests
led a member of the review board and a local victim's
advocate to take the case to the state attorney
The Diocesan board member, Dr. Robert Cooley, was
removed from the panel for his actions.
After reviewing the information, the state contacted
Lucas County prosecutor's office and cold-case
investigators from that office and Toledo police to take
another look at the 24-year-old murder case in which
Father Robinson originally was a suspect.
investigators could not substantiate or dismiss the
woman's allegations, her mention of Father Robinson
prompted them to reopen the case.
Warren of Sylvania, a defrocked priest, was
mentioned prominently in statements to the Diocese
Review Board. |
( THE BLADE/LORI KING )
On Monday, Survivors Network of those Abused by
Priests, or SNAP, a victims' advocacy group, said the
diocese did not follow its own protocol when it failed
to place Father Robinson on leave after the woman's
statements to the board or when the murder case was
A diocesan spokesman told The Blade in response that
the priest had not been suspended because "there were no
credible allegations on him."
But yesterday afternoon, the diocese issued a
statement attributed to Bishop Blair that said two
diocesan investigators will continue to check into the
statements of the woman.
When the church inquiry is complete, the Diocesan
Review Board "will revisit the allegations in light of
the investigation results that are presented to them,"
according to the statement.
That was followed later by the announcement that
Father Robinson had been placed on leave.
SNAP officials were glad to hear that the priest had
"Well it's about time," said Barbara Blaine, a former
Toledoan and SNAP founder. "It should have been done
when the victim, Jane Doe, came forward back in June,
"I think it's a step in the right direction," said
Claudia Vercellotti, local SNAP co-coordinator, although
"it's extremely belated."
Another Catholic priest, The Blade has learned, was
mentioned prominently in the Toledo woman's written and
verbal statements to the review board. Chet J. Warren, a
former member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales
religious order, has since been defrocked.
Mr. Warren of Sylvania has been accused of sexually
abusing at least eight minor girls in the 1970s. He was
sued in April, 2002, by Teresa Bombrys, now of Hilliard,
Ohio. She claimed in her lawsuit that is pending in
Lucas County Common Pleas Court that Mr. Warren sexually
molested her for four years beginning when she was in
the fourth grade.
Ms. Blaine said Mr. Warren began molesting her when
she was 13, and her suit was settled out of court by the
Toledo diocese and the Oblates in 1994.
She said at least two other victims have told her
about ritual abuse by Mr. Warren and that she or other
SNAP officials have been contacted by more than a dozen
alleged victims of Mr. Warren.
Catherine Hoolahan, an attorney representing a dozen
clients with pending lawsuits against the Toledo
diocese, said three claim they were abused during
rituals and Satanic rites.
"It's scary stuff. You don't think of that as
happening in Toledo, Ohio," Ms. Hoolahan said.
The Toledo Diocesan Review Board will meet today for
a regularly scheduled session, chairman Frank Link said
yesterday. The review board's creation was mandated by
the U.S. Bishops Dallas Charter of 2002.
A person familiar with the diocese's investigation
said Mr. Warren will be one of the main topics of
discussion at today's review board session, adding that
"there are many more victims of Chet Warren than have
been reported so far."
Mr. Warren could not be reached for comment
The Rev. James Cryan, head of the Oblates'
Toledo-Detroit province, could not be reached for
comment about the allegations against Mr. Warren.
Father Robinson, a diocesan priest of 40 years and
known by many clerics and parishioners as a quiet,
gentle man, was questioned for several hours Friday
afternoon at his tidy brick home next to the Toledo
Police Scott Park District Station and arrested about
Investigators say the priest murdered Sister Margaret
Ann, strangling her to death. Her body had been wrapped
in an altar cloth and stabbed up to 32 times in the neck
Sister Margaret Ann's body was posed to look as if
she had been sexually abused, but the cold-case squad
that reopened the investigation said there was no
evidence of sexual activity.
Detective Steve Forrester of the Toledo police and
Tom Ross, an investigator for the Lucas County
Prosecutor's Office, said Saturday that they believe
that Father Robinson acted alone and that the nun's
murder was part of a religious ceremony.
Police in 1980 claimed that they lacked the evidence
to arrest the priest, and the cold-case squad said it
found something "startling" when investigators took a
new look at the physical evidence. They said
developments in "blood transfer patterns" technology
will prove that a weapon belonging to Father Robinson
Father Robinson's attorney, John Thebes, said his
client maintains his innocence and the effort under way
by some community members to help post the priest's bail
has been "very positive and heartwarming."
Mr. Thebes said many people who aren't related to
Father Robinson are willing to put up their homes to
help him post bond.
But, he said, there is a lot of paperwork, such as
property deeds and mortgage notes, that comes with the
Bishop Blair, who has said he is deeply saddened by
Father Robinson's arrest and the reports of ritual
abuse, leaves today for Rome with Auxiliary Bishop
Robert Donnelly for their semiannual meeting with Pope
John Paul II.
Blade staff writers Christina Hall and Robin Erb
contributed to this report.
Contact David Yonke at