“You Can't Protect Kids in Secrecy”: Local Reaction to the Pennsylvania Clergy Sex Abuse Grand Jury Report

Toledo, OH - Reforms to better protect children and vulnerable adults from predator priests has come in the form of grand jury reports like this month's report from Pennsylvania and journalism, with the Boston Globe’s reports in 2002 which exposed decades of clergy sex abuse.

Spiritual and legal reckonings around the country and world followed. In addition to some changes to beef up laws like extending statutes of limitations, as well as legal prosecution of predator priests and their superiors who don't stop their abuse.

"The Church I don't think failed. The hierarchy failed. And clericalism is at the heart of the problem," said Lourdes University Emeritus professor Geoffrey Grubb, Ph.D.

Specifically, bishops who have been chosen not for their independence, but their submission to the authority of the Vatican, explained University of Toledo Catholic Studies professor Peter Feldmeier.

"What gets rewarded in the Catholic Church in the case of the hierarchy is less robust shepherds than lambs," observed Dr. Feldmeier.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops responded robustly to the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal with the so-called Dallas charter from 2002.

Since then, it has been updated three times and outlines a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual abuse. This includes reporting requirements to law enforcement.

Still, critics like Claudia Vercelotti from the Toledo chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) described the Church's track record as failed and proof it is better at lip service than real reforms.

"Ohio should be doing exactly what Pennsylvania is doing by launching investigations from the Attorneys General office. You can't protect kids in secrecy," insisted Claudia Vercellotti.

In an exclusive interview, WTOL 11 asked Bishop Thomas if he would open Diocese files to the Attorney General. He said he would.

Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) is running for governor. His office notes Ohio is a home rule state which privileges the power of local self-government. Local prosecutors would have to get this legal ball rolling.

Exclusive: Bishop Thomas Responds to Philadelphia Grand Jury Report

Toledo, OH - Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of the Diocese of Toledo spoke exclusively with Toledo's News Leader to answer why he is named in one page of a 2011 grand jury report detailing allegations of clergy sex abuse at the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

Along with a previous report filed in 2003, both Philadelphia grand jury reports pre-date this month's bombshell Pennsylvania grand jury report, revealing more than one thousand survivors and three hundred priests.

Bishop Thomas is not named as an abuser.

He served as Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, returning to serve to his hometown in June of 2006 after 18 years in Rome. This Archdiocese, like many around the country, was in the grips of scandal, after a 2003 grand jury report detailed at least sixty-three priests sexually abused hundreds of children. Reforms to the Archdiocese and to state laws followed this report.

But in 2011, another grand jury was frustrated with what it calls a continuing culture of cover up.

In 124 pages, it exposes 41 more priests who remained in active ministry after the Archdiocese learned of inappropriate behavior or sexual abuse of children.That includes a victim who goes by the pseudonym of Ben.

Pages 57 through 61 detail his sexual abuse as a boy by the Reverend Joseph J. Gallagher-including sexual assault and fondling his genitals.

In October of 2007, then 36-year-old Ben reports his abuse to the Archdiocese which the report states knew of a previous allegation against Father Gallagher. After an internal investigation, a Review Board determines Ben's allegations unsubstantiated.

Auxiliary Bishop Thomas agrees.

The Cardinal accepts this recommendation. Less than a year later after learning his allegations didn't pass Archdiocese muster, Ben committed suicide.

"In hindsight, perhaps I would have asked if there was more information we could determine and make a final determination on," confessed Bishop Thomas when we ask him if he should have taken a different approach with the Review Board's findings. "Well I think that I feel guilty not just for myself but for any Bishop and priest who has in any way learned and known of any abuse taking place."

WTOL asked if the Bishop has a message for "Ben's" family.

 "To his family, to offer our prayer for healing, our sorrow and our pain. And to let them know that we're standing with them in their sorrow."

EXCLUSIVE: Bishop Daniel E. Thomas on How His Philadelphia Tenure Shaped His Mission in Toledo

Toledo, OH - Bishop Daniel E. Thomas arrived in Toledo in 2014 after serving for eight years as Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

While there, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was in the grips of scandal and public outrage after two grand jury reports exposed dozens of priests sexually abused hundreds of children for decades.

He was named in a 2011 grand jury report, not as an abuser, but for helping to clear an accused priest. The report suggests that decision contributed to the suicide of the accuser.

Bishop Thomas exclusively told WTOL 11 the number one lesson he learned in Philadelphia that is shaping his leadership of the Diocese of Toledo is putting clergy sex abuse victims first.

"I think the first thing I learned is that the first care and first effort has to be for the care of the victim. The second thing I learned is that what came out of the results of that grand jury report which in fact I have made here in the policy and procedures of your Diocese in responding and addressing allegations," Bishop Thomas revealed.

This includes separating an investigator's role from the victim's assistance coordinator who takes in allegations of abuse.

But an examination of the websites of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Toledo Diocese reveals differences in the approach to using this medium to inform and conduct outreach about clergy sex abuse.

In Philly, the sections on clergy sex abuse appear more robust-including the "Status of Clergy" section with pictures, locations of ministries, and ecclesiastical status of accused priests. In contrast, the website of the Diocese of Toledo features only one page devoted to the Office of Child &Youth Protection and Victim Assistance with the entry dated January of 2014-months before he was installed Bishop.

"We have only one allegation that has been brought in. The act of an allegation of a priest that's been dealt with. The priest has been removed since that time And we are currently making every effort in honesty and transparency and most of all to make it friendly to any victim who may look at the site, who would be searching because they remember their abuse," he said .

Bishop Thomas acknowledged the Catholic Church has lost credibility, not just with its fiercest critics but with confused and angry believers and nonbelievers. He promises to continue working towards healing and justice for clergy sex abuse victims.

"What we need to do is allow our action to follow our resolve. And make sure that action is robust, compassionate to victims and just regarding anyone who is accused," pledged Bishop Thomas.

Exclusive: Corso's ICE Raid Mom Speaks Out

NORWALK, OH - She is one of the 114 people working at Corso’s Flower & Garden Center who were arrested in a U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement or ICE raid on June 5, 2018.

"I saw officers from ICE and Border Patrol. Some were wearing Army fatigues. Their faces were covered and they had guns," she said in Spanish.

WTOL 11 promised to not reveal her identity because she fears retaliation while she waits for a decision on her immigration status.

She described the 12 hours while she was detained as the hardest of her life because she did not know if she would ever see her five U.S. citizen children again.

"I have faith in God. He's the only one who can help us find the best solution for my children,” she said in Spanish.

Unlike dozens of other arrested Corso's workers, she's one of the lucky few to be released and reunited with their families.

When WTOL 11's Viviana Hurtado told her critics blamed her for breaking the law to enter the country illegally, she said she understands the criticism. But she pleads for compassion.

"In Mexico there's a lot of violence and no work. In America, we don't starve and I can work to provide a home, food, and clothing for my children," she said.

She said she loves America and her fight is not for her, but for a better life for her citizen children.

"I want my kids to study and become professionals, to be somebody. I don't want them to end up like  me: a nobody working long hours for little pay,” she said.

She currently wears an electronic monitoring device while her immigration case is decided by a judge.

Exclusive: Teenage Corso's Employee Speaks on ICE Raid, Father's Detention

WILLARD, OH - Jimmy Rodríguez graduated on June 3 and two days later he drove to his summer job at Corso's Flower and Garden Center with his father, a fellow employee.

On the morning of June 5, federal agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided two of this business' locations in Sandusky and Castalia, arresting 114 undocumented workers, including the Willard High School graduate and his dad. 

"As soon as we came outside those doors, a white SUV Silverado turns on the gravel and an ICE officer comes out with an AR and says, 'Get on the ground,'" Rodríguez recalled.

The 17-year-old arrived in the U.S. at 18 months and is protected under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

He described the chaos and confusion behind pictures he snapped and shared exclusively with Toledo's News Leader.

The photographs show officers in military fatigues, K-9 dogs, and Rodriguez said he remembers screams from some of the agents.

He said the detained women and men were scared because they did not know what was going to happen next or if they would see their families again.

"They were tearing up too. They said, 'Please tell my wife, my kids, my family that I'm OK. Tell them what happened. Tell the story. They need to know how we're being treated,'" said Jimmy.

The first in his family to be college bound, Rodríguez said he dreams of becoming a mechanical engineer and said he earned scholarships to attend community college before university.

In the days since his graduation and the ICE raid, his life changed. Those college plans are on hold while he fills the role of his father, working to provide food and a home for his mother and two elementary school-aged brothers.

What keeps him going are the directions from his father who, until then, had followed his own advice.

"Before they took him his last words were 'Stay calm and keep working,'" Rodríguez said.

His father's immigration court date is July 19, when the family will learn if or when he will be deported.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Gov. Kasich Talks Accomplishments, Future As Second Term Ends

COLUMBUS, OH (WTOL) - Governor John Kasich is known for liking to challenge conventional wisdom. In many ways, bucking the norm defines how he has governed Ohio. 

While a smaller government footprint is Republican principle, he touts expanding Medicaid for the neediest Ohioans, arguably one of his biggest accomplishments he credits to support from citizens he calls compassionate and pragmatic. 

“They don’t want the mentally ill to live, sleep under a bridge," Governor Kasich said. "They want to make sure you get some treatment."

One of the dark spots to happen during his administration was the opioid crisis. Although the state made some strides to combat the epidemic, he considers it “unfinished business.”

“I’m not saying we’re winning, I’m saying we’re gaining. We have a six-year low in deaths and a 20 percent drop in the number of doses of opioids," Gov. Kasich explained. "Part of the reason why I feel so strongly about Medicaid expansion is that it provided the resources in the communities for treatment and rehabilitation.”

Governor Kasich is also proud of the 485,000 jobs he says were created during his term. But he is not satisfied with this number and wants to pass the half a million jobs mark by the time he leaves on January 24, 2019.

He says this is an important part of his last days in office because he believes each job represents opportunity for a person, their family, and neighborhood.

The Governor is passionate about the role education plays in securing not just a good job, but creating a competitive workforce that is flexible to forthcoming changes like automation, robotics, and even artificial intelligence.

“As frustrated as I am about the workforce, I think we’re leading most of the states in the country," Govern Kasich said. "Is this going to be done in my term? No. We need to have more business people involved in setting the curriculum. We need to have lifelong education. We’re working on all of these issues. We have gains in all of them but it’s going to be a long road. I’m very anxious about this.”

According to the latest Morning Consult poll, 52 percent of surveyed Ohioans approve of the job Governor Kasich is doing.

But in his first year in 2011, that number was in the thirties. He says that is all a part of a trend in politics.

“The people on the street would say, what kind of poll is that? I haven’t warmed up to him. I don’t like him. You go up and down in politics," Kasich explained. "But you go up and down if you play for the Toledo Mud Hens. They were hitting 350 and they love you. Then you strike out five times in a row, with men on base and they say you’re a bum.”

As for what's next, many speculate Governor Kasich might try to challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. But Kasich says he is not sure if he wants to run or not. However, he does plan to stay in politics.

“I have no idea what I’m going to do. But I do want to be a voice," Governor Kasich said. "I appreciate the fact that the people have given me a chance and the Lord’s given me a voice.”