TOLEDO, Ohio – The Roman Catholic bishop of Toledo has suspended a priest charged in the 1980 killing of a nun, whose body was found covered by an altar cloth and surrounded by burning candles in a hospital chapel on Easter weekend.
The Rev. Gerald Robinson (search), 66, was arrested on Friday and charged with murder in the death of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl (search). He remained in jail Wednesday as friends and parishioners said they were trying to raise his $200,000 bail.
On Tuesday, Bishop Leonard Blair (search) put Robinson on a leave of absence, which means he can't celebrate any of the Catholic sacraments, including Communion.
The diocese said it has decided against paying his legal bills.
Blair also said a Diocesan Review Board will "revisit" allegations made by a woman who told the panel in June that when she was a child she was physically and sexually abused by several priests, including Robinson.
The diocese had decided not to forward those claims to authorities because it could not substantiate them, but the allegations were brought to the attention of prosecutors in a letter received in December, assistant prosecutor Gary Cook said Monday. He would not say who sent the letter.
It was the woman's mention of Robinson that spurred police to take another look at the nun's slaying.
Three other people have claimed they were abused by priests in rituals, said Catherine Hoolahan, an attorney who represents about a dozen people with lawsuits against the Toledo diocese. She said none of those claims, which were made before Robinson's arrest, was against him.
Robinson and Sister Pahl, 71, worked closely together for several years at Mercy Hospital. He was the hospital chaplain and she was the chapel's caretaker.
It was Robinson who presided over her funeral.
Some hospital employees told police they suspected he may have been involved in the death because he was one of the few people near the chapel.
In the years since the killing, Robinson had never mentioned the death, friends recall.
He later became pastor at several parishes and administered to residents of nursing homes.
His duties over the last decade mainly have been limited to visiting patients at hospitals and nursing homes and giving last rites. He also performed Mass once a month at a nursing home.
Friends say Robinson was extremely shy. However, he was popular in the city's Polish neighborhoods, and sometimes delivered sermons and heard confessions in Polish, which he speaks fluently.
"He always drew a big crowd when he would give Mass," said Mary Ann Plewa, a distant cousin. "People always wanted to come hear him."