Vatican secularizes Ohio priest serving life sentence for sexual exploitation of children

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CLEVELAND (CNS) – Pope Francis has dismissed a Cleveland man from the priesthood who is serving a life sentence for sexual exploitation of children.

The action against Robert McWilliams, 41, means he will no longer be able to perform any role as a priest, the Diocese of Cleveland said in a Dec. 21 statement.

“This dismissal is a sanction imposed directly by the Pope. There is no recourse possible ”, declared the diocese.

“This dismissal is a sanction imposed directly by the Pope. There is no recourse possible ”, declared the diocese.

McWilliams told U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi during sentencing on Nov. 9 that he had requested the revocation of the priesthood. He blamed his actions on pornography addiction.

In July, McWilliams pleaded guilty to two counts of sex trafficking of children under the age of 18, three counts of child sexual exploitation and three counts of child pornography.

Lioi said she imposed the strict sentence because the public needed to be protected from McWilliams as he preyed on young people who turned to him for help.

[Related: A priest ordained in 2017 is now serving a life sentence for sex abuse. How did he slip through the cracks?]

The diocese said it continued “as a family of faith to offer prayers and support to its victims (of McWilliam) and all those affected by his wrongdoing. We ask our loving Father to heal all the wounds they have suffered. “

McWilliams, who was ordered in 2017, was arrested on December 5, 2019, after officials of the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force served a warrant to search living and office spaces of the priest of St. Joseph’s parish in the suburb of Strongsville, Ohio, where he served as parish vicar.

The diocese said it continued “as a family of faith to offer prayers and support to its victims (of McWilliam) and all those affected by his wrongdoing.”

The incidents McWilliams was indicted for stemmed from his time in the ministry beginning before his ordination in another suburban parish and continued for over a year. Court records show officials in Geauga County, east of Cleveland, have started investigating allegations of children who said someone was extorting them to send nude photos online.

Investigators later learned that Father McWilliams allegedly met a male teenager through a cell phone app after offering payment in exchange for sex, records show. The teenager told authorities he had sex with the priest three times starting in April 2016 and was paid $ 200. He was 15 at the time, according to records.

[Related: A priest ordained in 2017 is now serving a life sentence for sex abuse. How did he slip through the cracks?]

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