In 2011, Rev. Gerald Robinson tried to get his conviction overturned. He failed. He is eligible for parole in 2016. / Madalyn Ruggiero/AP, via (NY) Daily NewsPope Francis has named Leonard Paul Blair, the incumbent bishop of Toledo, OH, to replace the retiring Henry Mansell as the archbishop of Hartford. As appointments go, this one might seem unremarkable. Making a midwestern bishop into a northeastern archbishop is a normal promotion process within the Catholic hierarchy in the US, and an expected feather-in-the-cap of a man who declared ecclesiastical war on America’s Catholic nuns.

But it turns out there’s a lot more to this story than might appear at first glance. The Hartford Courant‘s Belief blog reports that Blair might have helped interfere with an investigation into a murder (locally-cached article):

The morning after Toledo Bishop Leonard P. Blair was named to take over the Hartford Archdiocese, a Connecticut representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests was on the front steps of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford to air the organization’s concerns about the appointment.

The SNAP member, Gail Howard of Redding, said she was there with her husband Wednesday in part to draw attention to Blair’s behavior regarding the nationally publicized case of the Rev. Gerald Robinson, a Toledo diocesan priest, who ultimately was convicted in 2006 of killing a nun 26 years earlier.

SNAP has asked why Blair, bishop at the time of the trial, wasn’t more forthcoming with documents that the group says might have helped prosecute the case. The organization has also argued that Blair should have worked harder to get the priest, the Rev. Gerald Robinson, defrocked. The organization has called on Blair to explain his actions.

I looked into the the 1980 murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, 71 years old at the time. You can, too; articles on it are available from sources such as the (NY) Daily News and in a series of articles in TruTV’s Crime Library.

Sr Pahl’s murder went unsolved for over 2 decades, until prompted by another woman’s allegation in 2003, detectives re-examined the cold case. The following year, Fr Robinson was finally charged with murder. As the Daily News explained:

What changed? In a book about the case, the Blade’s David Yonke wrote that the Catholic Church had Toledo “wrapped around its little finger” in 1980. Officer Dave Davison told Yonke that all five detectives who investigated the homicide were Catholics.

“They sat on it as a courtesy to the church,” Davison said.

Fr Robinson had killed her, it turns out, because she’d repeatedly complained about his conduct as a priest.

As for where Blair comes into this … SNAP reports on their own Web site with references included (cached), Blair worked diligently to prevent the release of documents police had needed when they were prosecuting Fr Robinson. This resistant behavior is entirely consistent with how Roman Catholic hierarchs have dealt with other allegations against clergy, so it’s not surprising nor out-of-character for a bishop.

You see, the R.C. Church still believes it’s entitled to the medieval notion of privilege of clergy — that is, the idea that clergy are immune to secular criminal authorities — and never willingly allows its priests to be prosecuted; cooperation always has to be dragged out of them.

Of course, they have no objection to priests being prosecuted when the Church itself is the victim. But, like most Christians, the R.C. hierarchy has elevated hypocrisy into an artform, in spite of Jesus’ clear and unambiguous injunction against it. It would be nice if they’d obey their own Jesus for once, but that’s asking too much of the poor little things, I guess. (Yes, I know: How horrible of me to expect that avowed Christians actually live according to Christ’s teachings!)

Photo credit: Madalyn Ruggiero/AP, via (NY) Daily News.

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