CINCINNATI, Ohio – New concerns about the handling of abuse accusations in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the neighboring Diocese of Covington surfaced last week in an investigative report that aired as a four-part local television series, “Culture of Silence.”
In the wake of the August indictment of a Cincinnati-area priest, Father Geoff Drew on nine charges of rape, the WCPO I-Team conducted a three-month investigation into the ways in which priests and religious brothers accused of abuse are tracked and monitored in the region.
The resulting report alleges that the I-Team “discovered a disturbing pattern in which local Catholic Church officials failed to track priests accused of abuse, didn’t disclose to the public all of the names of priests with credible allegations, and still refuse to answer questions about why more information isn’t available.”
During the investigation, WCPO constructed a list of 92 accused priests and brothers using criteria specified in its report, discovering that more than half of those 92 did not appear on any local credibly accused list. WCPO’s investigators also determined that at least 12 of these 92 “are quietly living in the Tri-State area.”
One priest, Father Daniel Pater, had been removed from active ministry in January 2014 by the Vatican after he confessed to sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. WCPO found court filings indicating that Pater had reached a confidential settlement with the victim in 1995 and had never been criminally charged.
The I-Team discovered that Pater had found employment in February 2014 as the director of music at an Episcopal church in the Cincinnati area. The pastor of that church, Rev. Mary Laymon, fired Pater in October 2019, the same day she spoke with WCPO about their findings.
In response to WCPO’s questions about the specifics of Pater’s situation, Archdiocese of Cincinnati spokeswoman Jennifer Schack issued a prepared statement: “Father Daniel Pater has been permanently removed from priestly ministry … He is prohibited from wearing clerical clothing and publicly presenting himself as a priest. He is leading a life of prayer and penance.”
WCPO’s report noted that Laymon had told the I-Team, “We knew him as an ordained priest.”
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati provided WCPO with written responses to questions about how it assigns priests and how it defines a credible accusation of abuse. According to the report, the archdiocese did not grant WCPO’s request for an interview and left some of WCPO’s other questions unanswered.
The I-Team’s report also raised concerns about several situations involving accused priests living in the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, which is situated just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. WCPO stated that it issued eight separate requests for an interview or information over several weeks but received no response from the diocese.
The Diocese of Covington has yet to publish a list of credibly accused priests and has not committed to releasing one. The mid-November issue of Covington’s diocesan newspaper reported that in October 2019, two former FBI agents began a comprehensive, independent review of all priest files dating back to 1950.
This past Friday, the day after the fourth and final “Culture of Silence” episode aired on WCPO, the Diocese of Covington’s actions regarding abuse cases received additional scrutiny in an Associated Press report documenting flaws in the U.S. Catholic Church’s mandatory sexual abuse review board system.
In that AP report, Matt Connolly, an abuse survivor and former member of the Diocese of Covington’s review board, raised concerns about the ways in which the diocesan attorney began shifting the board’s approach in the wake of a class action suit. Connolly also took issue with the board’s independence, telling the AP, “They’ve got people who are going to follow the line and keep it secret.”
The diocese referred the AP to the current chair of the review board, Bill Burleigh, who defended Bishop Robert Foys of Covington as a strong bishop. Burleigh told the AP that Connolly’s characterizations are “not the board I’m familiar with.”
WCPO has indicated that its I-Team will continue its reporting on Cincinnati and Covington in the coming weeks.
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