TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A church funeral for a Roman Catholic priest in Ohio who died while serving a prison sentence for the 1980 death of a nun proceeded Friday as a few people protested at the church’s diocese headquarters.
About 200 mourners attended the funeral at St. Hyacinth Catholic Church in Toledo for Rev. Gerald Robinson, who died July 4 in a prison hospice at age 76. He was buried following the service.
Robinson was convicted in 2006 of the stabbing and strangling death of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl at a Toledo hospital where they worked. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in what church historians have characterized as the only documented case of a Catholic priest killing a nun.
At the funeral, priests and deacons sat at the front of the church and nuns, some wearing habits, were also in attendance, The Blade newspaper reported ( ). The church is where Robinson celebrated his first mass as an ordained priest.
“Father Robinson for many years carried a heavy burden. Whether or not it was a burden of guilt or a burden of a miscarriage of justice, I do not know,” the Rev. Charles Ritter, diocese administrator, said during the service. “We do not know. Either way, that burden is lifted for him now.”
Two groups including the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests asked the Diocese of Toledo earlier this week to reverse its decision allowing the usual protocol for diocesan priests’ funerals for Robinson. Friday, a few people from the organization protested the decision outside the diocese’s headquarters.
Robinson, who grew up in Toledo and served in several parishes, was barred from ministry following his trial but remained a priest because he was appealing his conviction.
Robinson and Pahl, 71, had worked closely together at the hospital, where he was a chaplain and she was caretaker of the chapel. She was killed the day before Easter in 1980 and Robinson presided at her funeral Mass days later.
Police arrested him in 2004 after investigators reopened the murder case when a letter surfaced that accused Robinson and other priests of molestation. Police weren’t able to substantiate the allegations of sexual abuse, but it led them back to the nun’s slaying.
Prosecutors blamed the deadly attack on Robinson’s simmering anger over Pahl’s domineering ways, saying their relationship was strained and that Pahl was upset over the shortening of Good Friday services a day before she was killed.
Information from: The Blade,