Bishop refuses to reinstate Leyland

7/3/2007
BY MAGGIE REID
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Meg Schoenlein, a member of St. Rose Catholic Church, hugs the former pastor, the Rev. Thomas Leyland, following his meeting with the bishop to seek reinstatement.
Meg Schoenlein, a member of St. Rose Catholic Church, hugs the former pastor, the Rev. Thomas Leyland, following his meeting with the bishop to seek reinstatement.

Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair yesterday refused to reinstate the Rev. Thomas Leyland as pastor of St. Rose Catholic Church in Perrysburg.

The bishop previously appointed the Rev. David Nuss, vocations director for the diocese, as the new pastor.

He made the final decision denying the parishioners' petition to renew Father Leyland's role as pastor of St. Rose during a meeting yesterday at the Catholic Center with Father Leyland and three parishioners from St. Rose.

About 30 members of St. Rose lined the sidewalk outside the building, holding a prayer vigil to show their support for Father Leyland.

Father Leyland said the meeting was disappointing.

Bishop Blair, left.
Bishop Blair, left.

He said he feels Bishop Blair is punishing him for publicly criticizing the bishop over the creation of a new parish, Blessed John XXIII, which adjoins St. Rose in Wood County.

Even though he was not originally invited to the meeting, he said the bishop allowed him to attend at the last minute.

The Rev. Stephen Stanbery leads members of St. Rose Catholic Church in prayer as the former St. Rose pastor, the Rev. Thomas Leyland, meets with the bishop.
The Rev. Stephen Stanbery leads members of St. Rose Catholic Church in prayer as the former St. Rose pastor, the Rev. Thomas Leyland, meets with the bishop.

"I'm grateful that the bishop met with me, but I'm very disappointed with the results," Father Leyland said. "I will continue to believe I have been done an injustice."

Father Leyland said he will not be reinstated at St. Rose and that the amount of involvement he will have at the church is at Father Nuss' discretion.

He has appealed to the Vatican to intercede and let him stay on as pastor. The diocese says he is not being punished.

And for the first time, another pastor spoke out to show his unhappiness at the bishop's decision.

The Rev. Stephen Stanbery said he has been a close friend of Father Leyland for years and that he is an honest, open man who was within his rights to speak out against the bishop's creation of the new parish.

He said the bishop's refusal to communicate with the pastor is a major concern for the church right now.

"There needs to be a lot more consultation with the bishop and the priests," said Father Stanbery, pastor of Holgate St. Mary and New Bavaria's Sacred Heart.

Members of St. Rose gathered outside to share their expressions of frustration with the bishop's decision and their love of Father Leyland.

During the vigil, supporters mingled and talked about the possibilities for Father Leyland's reinstatement. Many said they felt his chances were slim, but said they had come simply to show their disapproval of the bishop's action.

"This whole thing isn't right," said Darrell Clay, who has been at St. Rose's for nine years. "This should be between the people and their pastor, and the people wanted this man."

Claudia Vercellotti, of the Toledo chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she does not understand why Father Leyland was removed so quickly.

She said Bishop Blair repeatedly has offered due process to sex-offending clerics, but did not offer the same privileges to Father Leyland.

"He was expedited out the back door," she said. "This is just to ensure the silence of other priests so they won't speak out against the bishop."

Father Leyland, pastor of St. Rose since 1999, said is overwhelmed by the support he has received from the community.

Contact Maggie Reid at: mreid@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.