Bishop Says He Waited for Panel’s Review before Suspending Priest
By Martha Bellisle
October 23, 2010
Bishop Randolph Calvo sent a statement to Catholic parishes across the state Friday saying a review board in Kansas City has recommended that the Rev. Tom Cronin be placed on leave while it investigates a lawsuit claiming that he sexually abused a girl in 1979.
Calvo, the bishop of the Diocese of Reno, also defended his decision to delay placing Cronin on leave from his pastoral duties at St. Mary’s in the Mountains in Virginia City after he learned of the allegations on Oct. 1, saying he first wanted the claims investigated by a review board.
Cronin was accused in a civil lawsuit filed in Kansas City, Mo., of molesting and sexually assaulting a 17-year-old member of the Sacred Heart Parish in Hamilton, Mo. Cronin has denied the claims.
Cronin first moved to the Reno diocese in 1998 to work as a chaplain at Washoe Medical Center, now Renown Regional Medical Center, and was pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine in Fernley in 2000-04.
Brother Matthew Cunningham, spokesman for the diocese, said Cronin met with the bishop on Tuesday to discuss the lawsuit and Cronin agreed to take a voluntary leave while the diocese awaited word from Kansas City on how to proceed.
“The bishop had decided to ask him to step aside even before we heard the final word from the board,” Cunningham said.
But David Clohessy, executive director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, criticized Calvo on Thursday for not immediately suspending Cronin and publicly disclosing the allegations when Calvo learned of the lawsuit thee weeks ago.
Clohessy accused Calvo and other bishops of participating in a “disturbing and deliberate cover-up” of sexual misconduct of priests.
In his statement sent to the parishes and several media organizations on Friday, Calvo said, “I believe it is important for you to hear directly from me what action I have taken in this matter.”
Calvo said when he first read the story about the lawsuit in a Kansas City newspaper on Oct. 1, he asked Cunningham to contact that diocese “for substantiation and direction in this matter.”
“We had no access to any facts about this case and we were never contacted by the victim or her lawyers,” Calvo said.
Calvo said they also contacted the Kansas City diocese to inform them of their policy concerning such allegations: An initial examination of the facts is made and brought before the Diocesan Review Board, the board makes a recommendation about whether the priest should be placed on leave while an investigation is conducted, and civil authorities are contacted if appropriate.
Cunningham said the Kansas City diocese was in charge of the review and investigation because Cronin was ordained there.
On Thursday, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph informed the Reno diocese that its board recommended that, “based on the allegations presented,” Cronin should be placed on leave both in Reno and Missouri “pending further investigation.”
“It was not until this same day that I received substantive information on the case other than what I read in the newspaper,” Calvo said in the statement.
He said it was important to remember that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and asked that people “please keep this in mind regarding Father Tom Cronin.”
Calvo said that he takes the allegations very seriously.
“There is no place in the ministry for those who would harm the young,” he said. “Let us pray for everyone in the case and for a just resolution to this matter.”