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Published: Sunday, 10/12/2008

Retired Toledo priest barred from ministry

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

The Rev. Lawrence Varney, a retired Toledo Catholic priest, has been barred from ministry for a credible allegation of sexual abuse.

The 75-year-old diocesan priest was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor almost 30 years ago, the Toledo diocese said in a statement issued late Friday night.

The Diocesan Review Board, a panel appointed to hear allegations of clerical sexual abuse, deemed the allegation to be credible, the statement said.

Bishop Leonard Blair placed Father Varney on administrative leave and barred him from public ministry in compliance with diocesan policy, according to the statement.

Father Varney had been an instructor at Toledo's Central Catholic High School at the time the alleged abuse occurred.

Diocesan spokesman Sally Oberski said the case is just now coming to light because a victim recently came forward.

Claudia Vercellotti, co-director of the local chapter of SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said, "All this does is bring up more questions. Why, yet again, is the bishop piecemealing information out?"

She added, "Why is it 2008 and the community is just now hearing from the Diocese of Toledo [about this]? This underscores why these matters belong in courthouse and courtrooms; they do not belong buried in a personnel file."

The diocese said it has followed Ohio law on reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities.

Father Varney, a graduate of Central Catholic High School, went to Mount St. Mary Seminary in Cincinnati and was ordained in Toledo by Bishop George Rehring at Rosary Cathedral on May 28, 1960.

He received master's degrees from Xavier University and the University of Notre Dame.

He served as assistant pastor at St. Joseph, Marblehead, Ohio (1960); St. Mary, Sandusky (1960-64); St. Wendelin, Fostoria (1964-67); St. Anthony, Columbus Grove (1967-70), and Little Flower, Toledo (1970-73).

He taught at Lima's Central Catholic High School from August, 1967, to August, 1970, and Toledo's Central Catholic from August, 1970, to June, 1982, and also served as chaplain of the Franciscan Motherhouse in Sylvania from June, 1973, to June, 1982.

Father Varney was pastor of Ss. Cyril & Methodius, Rossford, (1982-1990) and St. Mary, Assumption, where he served from July, 1990, until his retirement.

A priest who is barred from public ministry remains a priest unless laicized by Rome, but may only celebrate Mass alone with no one present, may not celebrate the other sacraments, may not present himself as a priest, and may not wear clerical garb.

Final determination of Father Varney's case will be referred to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Forty clerics in the 19-county Toledo diocese have been accused of abusing children between 1950 and 2007, according to the diocese's Web site, toledodiocese.org.

In August, 2004, the diocese paid $1.19 million to 23 victims in settling 19 lawsuits.

Blade staff writer Kate Giammarise contributed to this report.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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