In his intriguing and informative book Sin, Shame and Secrets: A True Story of the Murder of a Nun, the Conviction of a Priest, and the Cover-up in the Catholic Church, award-winning journalist and author David Yonke —who’s “now working full time as the editor of The News-Messenger in Fremont and the News Herald in Port Clinton, two Gannett daily newspapers”—threw a quiet bombshell: the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio had paid for certain women’s abortions and kept a secret file on it.
This secret abortion file was discovered several years ago during the investigation into the reopened ritualistic murder case of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in 1980. Father Gerald Robinson was convicted of the murder in 2006; he died in a prison-run hospice in 2014.
(Incidentally, Father Jeffrey Grob, an exorcist and the current chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago, assisted investigators in the case.)
In regard to the diocese’s secret abortion file—which the diocese never publicly confirmed nor denied—I asked Yonke if there’s been any update on the matter.
He responded: “I talked to one of my sources about it; [he/she] reaffirmed its accuracy but would not offer any more information other than the file contains some ‘terrible’ reports. Someday they may talk about it, but not yet. I am still confident that my report is accurate—and not that this affects how I feel about my reporting, but if it were not true, the diocese would have jumped on me long ago.”
Regarding abortion, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes….
Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. ‘A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,’ ‘by the very commission of the offense,’ and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
The Toledo diocese has a moral obligation to set the record straight on this matter. If they deny that it’s true, they should refute Mr. Yonke’s assertions and prove that he defamed them in his book. If they can’t do that, they have some explaining to do. I have no interest in seeing the diocese reveal the women’s names (there would be no reason for them to do so). If the diocese is guilty as charged, however, they have a duty to publicly apologize to the faithful for paying to have these unborn children killed. After all, church officials have done the same in regard to victims of clergy sex abuse.
This is a case that demands no less.
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 [email protected].