As of Saturday, March 28, 2015, 08:53 a.m.
By Ray Kisonas
The Catholic Church is searching for possible victims of sexual abuse after a Toledo priest admitted in a note written before his death that he assaulted a Temperance boy 14 years ago.
The Rev. James Roth, a former teacher and administrator at St. Francis de Sales High School in Toledo, had served weekend Masses at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Monroe. Father Roth, 61, died in February.
The Rev. Ken McKenna, a friend and former classmate of Father Roth’s, is the provincial of the Toledo- Detroit Province of the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales. He confirmed that Father Roth died of an overdose of insulin and it appears to be a suicide after the sexual assault victim came forward in January. However, an official ruling has not been made.
“I think he felt so bad,” Father McKenna said. “ He had this awful, horrible compulsion. I was shocked. And the people who knew him were shocked.”
The victim was 8 or 9 years old when the assault occurred in 2001. Father McKenna said the assault occurred in Monroe County and Father Roth was a friend of the victim’s family.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Maj. Jeff Kemp said an attorney contacted the sheriff’s office last month to report the crime that occurred 14 years ago in Temperance. Maj. Kemp said that before the allegation could be investigated, Father Roth died. The case was then closed.
Immediately after the victim came forward, Father Roth was removed from his ministry, which was in Ontario at the time. Father McKenna said he did not know why the victim decided to report the assault 14 years later. He said it somehow was brought up during a conversation with family members and the victim, who no longer lives in Monroe County, contacted the church.
After the allegation surfaced Father Roth was brought to a private, secluded home in Michigan. After missing morning prayers, Father Roth, who was ordained in 1995, was discovered unresponsive. He then died Feb. 11.
Father McKenna said his friend and former colleague left him a note that confirmed the sexual assault allegation was true. The priest then contacted other family friends of Father Roth, but no other allegations of assault were made.
Father McKenna said he wants anyone who may have had inappropriate contact with Father Roth to report it.
“ We do encourage them to come forward,” Father McKenna said. “ Then we can move ahead with counseling.”
Father McKenna said Father Roth was very remorseful in his note. He also said he met with the victim, who did not seem bitter or angry.
“I think he just wanted to come forward,” Father McKenna said. “ He was very gracious.”
Father Ken McKenna can be contacted at 419-724-9851 or www.TDprovince.org