Americans' view of priests has changed since nun's 1980 murder

Few people dared to say anything bad about priests in 1980, when Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was found stabbed to death in a hospital chapel. Even when the hospital's chaplain emerged as the only suspect, witnesses were reluctant to implicate the priest.

But the sex abuse scandal that has since swept through the Roman Catholic Church has changed the way people view clergy.

"Times are very different in many ways," Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates said after the Rev. Gerald Robinson was convicted last week of murdering the nun 26 years after her death.

Prosecutors reminded jurors of that in their final arguments, telling them it would have been difficult right after Pahl's death to convince a jury that a priest was capable of murder.

"All the scandals that have occurred have certainly changed the climate," Chris Anderson, an assistant prosecutor, said after the verdict. "People still hold priests in high reverence, but this may change things."

Robinson, 68, was sentenced Thursday to a mandatory term of 15 years to life in prison for murdering Pahl, 71, a day before Easter.

Jurors needed just six hours last week to determine that he choked and stabbed her in what prosecutors called a "rage killing." They say he grew angry with her because she was a dominating, strict figure.

The two worked together at Mercy Hospital, where she supervised nurses before retiring to become the chapel caretaker.

Robinson became a suspect within two weeks of the killing. Some hospital employees pointed the finger at him right away, but others were hesitant.

Grace Jones, who testified at the trial that she saw Robinson leave the chapel with a duffel bag in hand, was hesitant to get involved in 1980, Anderson said.

"She told us that a black woman couldn't accuse a priest of doing anything wrong back then," Anderson said. Her account was a key moment because it placed the priest at the murder scene and contradicted his claim that he was in his room that morning, reports AP.


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