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Ex-Area Priest Placed On Leave

Jan 3, 2003 | Mansfield News Journal

A former St. Peter's Catholic Church priest has been relieved of his duties pending the outcome of a child pornography investigation by the U.S. Customs Service.

The Rev. Stephen Rogers was placed on a leave of absence last month by the Toledo Diocese and is in a residential therapy program, a diocese spokeswoman said.

Rogers is accused of using a computer in his home to view child pornography, the spokeswoman said. No criminal charges have been filed against him.

Rogers came to St. Peter's in 1995 as a newly ordained minister, said the Rev. Herb Weber of St. Peter's. Rogers was an associate pastor until leaving in 1997 to take a job at Toledo Central Catholic High School.

"Some are angry; others who remember Father Steve's fine homilies and compassionate ministry are truly saddened," Weber wrote in a bulletin this week to parishioners. "Pray for the entire church and anyone who has been offended by our priests or other church leaders. May God bring us out of the darkness of this past year's scandal."

While in Mansfield, Rogers conducted Mass, funerals and weddings among other duties, Weber said. Records indicate Rogers was in Mansfield as recently as 1999, when he helped officiate the funeral of a prominent local businessman.

Weber said Rogers came to the priesthood after the age of 40 and saw it as a "second career."

"He was involved in all kinds of ministry, and he did very well," Weber said. "I think it's sad when you see someone do something morally wrong and downright stupid. I don't know what this is all about. I don't know about pornography, but I have a feeling it's an addiction and people very much have trouble breaking it."

Weber said Rogers is the first priest he has worked with at St. Peter's to be caught in the scandal of sexual abuse that has rocked the Catholic Church during the past year.

"It's the very antithesis of what we're trying to be, and we're dismayed by it and offended," Weber said.

A spokeswoman with the Toledo Diocese said Rogers' status as a priest would depend on the outcome of the investigation.

The church announced last summer that two priests with ties to St. Peter's were permanently removed from the priesthood for sexual misconduct dating to the early 1980s.

The Rev. Lawrence C. Scharf, 63, was removed from St. Joseph's Church in Monroeville because of allegations involving a local victim in 1981 when he was pastor of Resurrection Parish near Lexington.

Scharf also was accused of misconduct with a minor while pastor at St. Mary's in Kirby and at St. Peter's in Upper Sandusky. He was an associate pastor at Mansfield St. Peter's from June 1978 to January 1981.

The Rev. Robert R. Thomas, 71, was an associate pastor at Mansfield St. Peter's from August 1969 until June 1974. In 1984, the diocese was informed of an allegation Thomas engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor while he was a pastor in Toledo.


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