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Diocese of Toledo Under Scrutiny

Dec 2, 2002 | AP

Although 12 priests admitted to sexually abusing children in the Diocese of Toledo over 34 years, only three were charged with crimes, and the police not the Roman Catholic Church began the investigations, The Blade reported Sunday.

In some cases, the diocese failed to inform parishioners as well as police about abuse and at least 12 times, the diocese moved accused abusers elsewhere without telling their new parishioners about their actions, the newspaper said.

The Blade reviewed more than 2,000 court and church records of 24 child-abuse cases involving priests and church workers from 1960 to 1994. The diocese covers 19 counties and has 162 parishes for 322,000 Catholics.

“The children were betrayed,†said Judy Laddaga, a former Waterville resident who tried to warn the diocese about a troubled priest in 1985. “Where was the heart of the shepherd? The church is supposed to protect its flock, especially the ones who need protection the most.â€

Since the 1950s, there have been at least two examples each decade of priests or others who cared for minors accused of forcing the youngsters into sex acts, but the diocese failed to notify police, The Blade said.

Diocesan lawyers struck confidential out-of-court settlements with accusers that required the victims to keep quiet.

Priests who were accused of sexual crimes were considered fallen clerics and not criminals by diocesan leaders, Bishop James Hoffman, leader of the diocese since 1981, told The Blade.

Hoffman said the diocese knows of no new reports of sexual misconduct by priests since it adopted an abuse policy in 1995 and that any future accusations would be reported to law enforcement officials.

“If I knew then what I know today, I’m sure I would have handled some things differently,†Hoffman said.

A message seeking further comment was left at diocesan offices on Sunday.

In 1986, the Rev. James Rapp was caught abusing two boys in Jackson, Mich., and was sent to a Maryland sex disorder clinic, The Blade said. Rapp, 46, said he tried to stop molesting teenage boys, and for years, he couldn’t help himself, The Blade quoted court records as saying.

He was diagnosed with ephebophilia, a sexual attraction to adolescent boys, and in 1991 the diocese sent him to a remote parish in Oklahoma.

He then raped three more boys in a case that led to a lawsuit and a settlement of $5 million, the second-largest ever paid to a victim of a priest, The Blade said.

Lawyers for the victims laid much of the blame on his Toledo superiors for failing to follow the advice of the doctor they hired a decade earlier, the newspaper said. The ex-priest, now 61, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1999.

The case has been cited by lawyers across the country as an example of church supervisors not heeding the warnings.

Diocesan leaders point to the 1995 policy as evidence the church has responded to sexual-abuse allegations. However, its enforcement is inconsistent, the newspaper said.

A church worker was banned from youth events after allegations of sexual abuse, but as recently as last year, he was still joining in church retreats for teens, The Blade said.

Hoffman since has apologized for the lapse.

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