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Published: Tuesday, 3/30/2004

Diocese ID's 16 alleged abusers; report from Toledo bishop omits lay workers, deceased clerics

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

The report, however, excludes lay employees of the diocese and priests who are either dead or members of a religious order.

The allegations against all but one of the 16 named priests have been previously reported in The Blade. The one cleric whose case has not been reported is the Rev. John McCullen, ordained in Toledo in 1944.

Sally Oberski, director of communications for the Toledo diocese, said the allegations against Father McCullen surfaced after he moved to Florida in 1960. She could not say when or where in the Toledo diocese the alleged abuse occurred. The alleged abuse occurred in Florida.

The priest is listed in the Toledo diocesan directory as retired and living in Deerfield Beach, Fla., but a receptionist at St. Ambrose Parish there said Father Ambrose has moved out of the area. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Bishop Blair's status report states that all allegations have been reported to the appropriate civil authorities. John Weglian, chief of the Lucas County prosecutor's special units division, said yesterday that no criminal charges are pending in any of the cases.

The diocese has published the report on its Web site, www.toledodiocese.org.

A spokesman for the victims' advocacy group SNAP said yesterday that the report is "incomplete but a step in the right direction."

Claudia Vercellotti, co-coordinator of the Toledo chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Bishop

Blair should release the names of all church leaders - "whether diocesan, order, secular, volunteer, living, or deceased" - who faced credible allegations of sexual abuse.

Withholding the names of deceased priests accused of abusing minors hampers their victims' healing process, Ms. Vercellotti said.

She also called it "indefensible" that the diocese has not released the names of lay employees who faced credible allegations.

"It's not that we want the names released just for the sake of releasing them. It's because these individuals may be living and working in close proximity to children who do not know their history of sexual abuse, and that could put children at risk."

After the release of a national study on clerical sexual abuse, Bishop Blair announced Feb. 27 that he would release the names and status of Toledo priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors but added that he would not disclose the names of deceased priests because they could not defend themselves.

The status report said seven priests charged with abusing minors are deceased; two were accused and exonerated; one is under investigation; five have voluntarily left the ministry; 10 are barred from public ministry, and one was a permanent deacon who left the ministry before allegations surfaced.

The report also lists restrictions on priests barred from ministry: "They may only celebrate Mass alone with no one present. They may not celebrate the other sacraments, present themselves as priests, or wear clerical garb."

The report states that religious order priests - naming the Rev. John Gallen of the Society of Jesus, and the Rev. Chet Warren, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales - are not under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Toledo.

The Rev. Arthur Espelage, a Jesuit and spokesman for the Canon Law Society of America in Washington, said yesterday that diocesan bishops have authority over religious order priests only while the cleric is serving in the bishop's diocese. Both Father Gallen, who is living in New York City, and Father Warren, who lives in Toledo, have been barred from ministry.

SNAP also is asking the diocese to list every parish and other assignment where alleged offenders have served.

Ms. Oberski said the status report follows the criteria of the national study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which tallied 54 years of allegations. She said the local status report "is a step-by-step process" and that the diocese will consider adding priests' assignments to the list.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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