Five ex-Marion priests on diocesan list of credibly accused in Catholic sex abuse scandal

Marion Star, Ohio/March 5, 2019

By Sarah Volpenhein

Marion — At least five of the 34 clergy on a list of clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing minors released by the Diocese of Columbus Friday were pastors or Catholic school teachers in Marion.

While three of those priests had been publicly named and defrocked, the other two were not publicly known.

Both Bernard J. McClory, who was a pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church at least from 1983 to 1991, and Alan M. Sprenger, assistant pastor at St. Mary from 1960 to 1962, were revealed in the diocese's release to have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. Sprenger also taught at Marion Catholic High School, according to his obituary.

McClory retired in 1997 as pastor of Saint Leo Parish in Columbus, according to his obituary. Sprenger retired in 2001 as executive director of Syntaxis Youth Homes, group homes for teenage wards of the court and county children services, which he co-founded in the 1970s, his obituary says.

The Star could not find any prior public accusations against McClory or Sprenger. Both priests have since died.

The remaining three priests on the list who had been stationed in Marion were R. Michael Ellifritz, Michael F. Hanrahan and Thomas L. McLaughlin, all of whom have been defrocked.

Both Hanrahan and McLaughlin were criminally charged in connection to sexual abuse of children and spent time in prison.

The list of clergy released by the Catholic Diocese of Columbus Friday did not include the parishes where the accused clergy worked. But in searching its archives, the Star was able to identify five priests who had worked as pastors or Catholic school teachers in Marion.

The list also did not include any details on the allegations, such as where the abuse was alleged to have occurred or when.

In an email, diocese spokesman George Jones said that the diocese did not intend to provide specifics on the victims or their allegations.

"The Diocese of Columbus is committed to providing law enforcement officials its full cooperation with all matters of criminal behavior by anyone acting on behalf of the Church," Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell said in a statement. "As we move forward together into the future, let us all be strengthened by our loving Lord in the continuing work of assuring safe environments for all children and young people."

When contacted by the Star Monday, St. Mary Catholic Church directed any inquiries to the diocese spokesman.

At least one of the five priests was alleged to have abused a Marion youth.

McLaughlin, who was pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church for nine years until he left in 1983, was suspected in an attack on a Marion County boy, a Franklin County sheriff's detective told the Star in 1989, as well as abuse of six Franklin County boys.

McLaughlin was only convicted of a crime related to one of the Franklin County boys. He pleaded guilty in 1989 to attempting to molest a 12-year-old boy at his cabin in Logan County, a plea he entered on the condition he not be charged with crimes involving the other boys, according to news reports at the time.

Hanrahan was an assistant pastor at St. Mary and a teacher at Marion Catholic High School from 1971 to 1975.

He pleaded guilty in 1994 to molesting an 11-year-old or 12-year-old boy in the 1980s. With his plea, he avoided prosecution in cases involving two other boys, the Associated Press reported in 2002.

Ellifritz was religion coordinator, teacher and chaplain at Marion Catholic High School for a year from 1975 to 1976, according to Star archives.

He was involved in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts throughout Central Ohio for longer, as the diocesan director of scouting in the 1970s and early 1980s and a scout chaplain for years, according to Star and other news archives. News archives show Ellifritz was an advisor of local Scouts as recently as the 1990s.

He was laicized after he admitted to having "improper contact" with a minor in the early 1980s, according to a 2005 article by The Columbus Dispatch.

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