Church Needs Day of Reckoning

Since the national “reforms” adopted by all U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2002, there have now been four criminal convictions of Toledo Catholic diocesan clergy. Three clerics were convicted in federal court for sexual crimes involving minors and one priest was convicted in state court for murder.

The lineup of felon priests includes most recently Father Michael J. Zacharias, who this week was formally defrocked by the Vatican. Catholic church officials will act as though the bad acts of yet one more Toledo Diocesan cleric is neatly wrapped up with a bow.

Except it’s not.

Many questions remain unanswered, and much work remains to be done to protect kids, expose corruption and heal victims.

Zacharias was convicted in December 2023 by federal authorities on multiple charges of sexual crimes, including human trafficking.

He “manipulated and coerced drug-addicted boys and men into sex” and made a “confession video” in which he performed oral sex on a then-adult victim, who by all accounts he preyed upon as a child, according to documents filed by prosecutors.

Zacharias also admitted to first meeting one of his victims when he was an aspiring seminarian, and the boy was in grade school. A second young man told the FBI he met Zacharias as a first-grader, and that the then-seminarian began sexually abusing him as a teenager.

Zacharias’ conviction involved grooming three young boys for “commercial sex acts,” each of whom developed addictions to opiates which Zacharias exploited.

Now, the Vatican has dismissed him as a cleric. Isn’t that enough?

Simply put, no.

Don’t the eight different communities where Zacharias served as a Catholic priest deserve answers? Don’t the victims and their families deserve more?

Why hasn’t Bishop Daniel Thomas committed to an investigation into how all of this happened, despite the many purported prevention steps every diocese was to have instituted in 2002?

Lest we forget, these steps they agreed to were only after considerable unrelenting pressure from victims, police, prosecutors, parishioners, the public and media.

Where is the accountability for the seasoned pastor who served as a vocational director, and reportedly told one boy who was being sexually molested by Zacharias in 2000 that “It was all in your head.” Why is he not being held accountable by the bishop? Why does Bishop Thomas refuse to even identify, much less discipline, this callous pastor whose cruel victim-blaming enabled Zacharias to keep on manipulating and assaulting other kids?

Where is the day of reckoning for every Catholic Diocese employee in Northwest Ohio — whether they be ordained or lay person, diocesan or parish or school staffer — all who to this day stay silent about Zacharias’ crime spree that spanned more than two decades?

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