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OHIO: Former Toledo cleric accused of Pennsylvania abuse

OHIO: Former Toledo cleric accused of Pennsylvania abuse
Allegations against late bishop include molesting nine girls

By David Yonke
Blade Religion Editor
July 20, 2010

Bishop Donald James Davis, in a 1964 photo, was rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Toledo from 1963-71. He died in 2007. There are no known allegations against him from his years in Toledo.

The late Bishop Donald James Davis, who was rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Toledo from 1963-71, has recently been accused of molesting at least nine women while they were children in Pennsylvania, church officials said.

Bishop Davis resigned from the House of Bishops in 1994 after a bishop confronted him over allegations of abuse. No criminal charges were filed at the time because the victims did not wish to go public, Bishop Sean Rowe of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania said in a statement.

Bishop Davis died in 2007 at age 78.

The Rev. Elizabeth Hoster, Trinity's current rector, said there are no known allegations against Bishop Davis from his years in Toledo. "If such a situation were to happen today, the authorities would be contacted and an investigation would begin promptly," she said. Ms. Hoster met with longtime parishioners personally last week, mailed a letter to the congregation, and referenced the letter from the pulpit on Sunday asking any other victims to step forward.

"Those who were abused are invited to contact me privately or publicly, and we will work toward healing and reconciliation," Ms. Hoster said.

Although Bishop Davis left Toledo nearly 40 years ago, "these wounds last a long time," Ms. Hoster said. "We want to be transparent about this and helpful to those who may need healing." Bishop Rowe said in a statement posted July 13 on the diocese's Web site, dionwpa.org, that "I had no idea Bishop Davis abused girls until I received a phone call on March 30, 2010, from a woman who was abused sometime between 1978 and 1980. I immediately began an investigation and during that investigation, I learned of three other victims who had come forward in the past."

There are now at least nine alleged victims, the bishop said.

Bishop Rowe said he learned that his predecessor, Bishop Robert Rowley, had confronted Bishop Davis in 1993 after allegations surfaced and that Bishop Davis agreed to resign from the House of Bishops, undergo counseling, see a psychiatrist, "and refrain from any priestly or episcopal duties."

The allegations from the 1970s and 1980s involved girls who were as young as 10, church officials said. At least two of the victims allegedly were abused at a church summer camp and others said they were victims of repeated sexual abuse over time.

Bishop Davis was a native of Newcastle, Pa., and moved as a child to Frederick, Md. He was known as an outstanding tenor vocalist and studied music at Westminster College in Pennsylvania.

He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1952, and the Episcopal News Service said in an obituary that Bishop Davis "received a master's degree from Bowling Green University."

Bishop Davis was ordained a priest in December, 1955, and served in the District of Columbia and Carmel, Ind., before moving to Toledo in 1963 where he and his wife and three children lived in a rectory on Pembroke Road in Ottawa Hills.

Bishop Davis was elected bishop of the Northwestern Pennsylvania diocese in 1973.

One of 67 Episcopal bishops who sponsored a landmark resolution allowing women in the priesthood, Bishop Davis ordained Jacqueline Means as the first woman priest in the Episcopal Church on Jan. 1, 1977.

He lived in Sarasota, Fla., in retirement, where he sang often in church choirs and as a soloist, according to the Episcopal News Service.


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