Matt C. Abbott
April 12, 2007
More on Toledo Catholic diocese, abortion files
By Matt C. Abbott

In a Dec. 2006 column, I printed an excerpt from Toledo Blade religion editor David Yonke's book Sin, Shame and Secrets which stated that "privileged" diocesan files "contained reports of abortions paid for by the [Toledo] diocese."

Yonke's book is about the Father Gerald Robinson case in Toledo, Ohio. Robinson was convicted on May 11, 2006 of murdering Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in a hospital chapel in 1980. He is serving a sentence of 15 years to life.

To date, the diocese has not commented on Yonke's report of the abortion files.

And Yonke stands firmly behind his reporting.

Claudia Vercellotti, of the Toledo chapter of SNAP, shed more light on the matter in a recent e-mail to me:

"Here's what I know: The Toledo Police asked the diocese for everything on Father Gerald Robinson and received only three pages. After obtaining and executing two no-knock search warrants, they uncovered 145 more pages that had never been turned over to the police.

"When I confronted the Bishop Blair about this in the hallway at the statehouse (I was there urging lawmakers to enact Senate Bill 17; Blair, in full regalia, was there asking the lawmakers to keep his secrets, well, secret), Blair denied any existence of these files, but he looked like he'd just seen a ghost. I asked him, why did the diocese withhold anything amid a murder investigation? He flatly responded, 'We gave them what they asked for.'

"Post conviction [of Robinson], I met with [Lucas County Prosecutor] Julia Bates and [Assistant Lucas County Prosecutor] Dean Mandros in a vain effort to ask them to go after those who provided Robinson cover during the re-opening of the investigation into Sister Pahl's murder, especially in light of the no-knock search warrants. I also told them I was well aware of the existence of the abortion files that the police found when they executed those no-knock search warrants. They looked stunned, to say the least.

"The significance of the abortion files is that it is consistent with other dioceses around the country which have done the same in an effort not to hide an embarrassing moment for a priest, but to get out of paying child support for the baby and keep these secrets secret.

"Two things are noteworthy there has been no libel suit against Yonke or the Blade. Also, to date, the diocese has not publicly denied that the abortion files exist.

"What remains a mystery is why the police didn't go back and obtain warrants to secure the abortion and abuse files in the event that they could have helped solve other crimes."

Yonke added (via e-mail):

"Mandros told me last year that he thought it was 'rather odd' that there was nothing mentioned of the 1980 murder and no reference to a diocesan investigation in the 145 pages from Robinson's file that the diocese turned over to the prosecutor after the first search warrant.

"I think that is notable. He was the only suspect, police say, and Msgr. Schmit, the diocese's power broker at that time, intervened on Robinson's behalf. So obviously the diocese knew its priest was under investigation. Why is there no reference to that in Robinson's file?"

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at

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