April 17th, 2006


Ohio Priest to Be Tried for Nun's Slaying

Ohio Priest to Be Tried for Nun's Slaying
By JOHN SEEWER Associated Press Writer, © 2006 The Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio — A day before Easter in 1980, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was found strangled and stabbed in a hospital chapel, the wounds on the nun's chest and neck forming what investigators say resembled a cross. An altar cloth covered part of her body.

The trail soon went cold and stayed that way for more than 20 years _ until investigators circled back to the priest who presided at her funeral Mass.

On Monday, the Rev. Gerald Robinson, 68, goes on trial on murder charges in a case swirling with allegations of an official cover-up, rumors of sexual abuse rites among priests, and suspicions that the killing was some kind of ritual slaying. Robinson could get life in prison if convicted.

Investigators have not disclosed a motive for the slaying and have said the nun was not sexually assaulted.

Robinson was the Roman Catholic chaplain at Mercy Hospital and a popular priest in this blue-collar city of about 300,000, where a quarter of the residents are Catholic. He was especially well-liked in Polish neighborhoods because he delivered some sermons and heard confessions in Polish.

Sister Margaret Ann, 71, was the caretaker of the hospital chapel. She was stabbed 30 times.

Robinson was a suspect early on because he was near the chapel at the time of the killing. Police questioned him for hours and found a sword-shaped letter opener in his room that prosecutors now believe was the murder weapon. But Robinson was not arrested until two years ago.

Since then, some community members have accused the Toledo police and the Toledo Catholic Diocese of not aggressively investigating the slaying and crimes involving priests accused of molesting children.

"We know this is a trial about murder, but the cover-up can't be ignored," said Claudia Vercelloti, director of the Toledo office of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Current and former police officers deny there was a cover-up, saying Robinson was not charged earlier because there was not enough evidence. There were no fingerprints, no footprints, no witnesses. DNA technology was not available.

Investigators who reopened the murder case say they found bloodstains on the altar cloth that matched those from the letter opener. They said the stains were created when the letter opener was laid down.

Prosecutors also plan to use Robinson's statements made to police, including a claim that someone else had confessed to killing the woman. He later admitted making that up.

Investigators reopened the murder case in December 2003 after the prosecutor's office received a letter about a woman's claims that she was molested by priests for years as a child. Among the names she mentioned was Robinson. Police were unable to substantiate her allegations of sexual abuse.

There also have been whispers that a few priests, including Robinson, took part in ritual abuse ceremonies. A woman who filed a lawsuit against Robinson and other clergy members said they tortured and raped her in rituals performed in a church basement nearly 40 years ago.

Robinson's attorney, Alan Konop, has said the allegations did not "deserve the dignity of a reply." No charges have resulted from those claims, and police could not link any ritual abuse to Robinson, The Blade reported a year ago.

However, police have said the nun's killing appeared to be some type of ritual slaying. They have refused to elaborate, other than to say that the body was posed to look as though she had been sexually assaulted, with the nun's underwear pulled down.

Dave Davison, the first police officer to arrive in the chapel, said he saw no evidence of a ritual and called those claims a "smokescreen" set by the killer to throw off investigators.

It is not known whether there will be any mention of ritual abuse at Robinson's trial.

Dawn Perlmutter, an expert on religious violence and ritualistic crimes, has been assisting prosecutors, and said that in previous cases she has advised prosecutors not to mention claims of ritualistic acts.

"It just muddies the water," she said. "People do not want to believe these things go on. It can really affect the outcome."

Robinson was transferred from the hospital a year after the slaying and became pastor at three parishes in Toledo. At the time of his arrest he ministered to the sick and dying in nursing homes. He is on leave but is allowed to wear his priest's collar.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are not commenting, saying the judge has ordered them not to talk about the case. Robinson is free on bail. He cannot get the death penalty because it was not in effect at the time of the slaying.

Jack Sparagowski, a parishioner at an inner-city church where Robinson used to celebrate Mass on Easter weekend, set up a legal defense fund that raised $12,000. Some family members and supporters put their houses up to post a $400,000 bond.

"For someone to commit murder, you have to have a violent streak," Sparagowski said. "I've never heard Father raise his voice or show any expression of anger. The whole thing seems so bizarre."

Interesting to note how the tables continue to turn. For all of the horrors supposedly attributed to The Devil, the worshippers of the nazarene commit these deeds in actuality, while blaming their actions on either 'light' or 'dark' fictions. Seems The Circus Maximus has returned in the form of impartial empirical evidence, and subsequent justified prosecutions.



Well, whaddaya' know... there was at one point another "DBlackthorne" out there in cyberspace, who decided to call it quits some time ago. It's a good thing too, to avoid any potential misunderstanding.

  • Current Music
    Roy Orbison

Classic movie, leader...

Some unexpected results...

I actually enjoy this series quite a bit. I first saw this particular film in English class, of all places. The "Indiana Jones Adventure" ride at Disneyland is a wonderful multi-sensory experience as well. Extremely well done.

Not counting any political connections, I suppose he went after what he desired, and that is an admirable quality.

  • Current Mood
    amused amused



Neurotheology, also known as biotheology, is the study of the neural basis of spirituality. Neurotheology deals with the neurological and evolutionary basis for subjective experiences traditionally categorized as spiritual.


Aldous Huxley used the term neurotheology for the first time in the utopian novel Island. The term is also sometimes used in a less scientific context or a philosophical context. Some of these uses, according to the mainstream scientific community, qualify as pseudoscience. Huxley used it mainly in a philosophical context.

The use of the term neurotheology in published scientific work is currently uncommon. A search on the citation indexing service provided by Institute for Scientific Information returns five articles. Three of these are published in the journal Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, while two are published in American Behavioral Scientist. Work on the neural basis of spirituality has, however, occurred sporadically throughout the 20th century. Keywords for such work include 'deity', 'neurophysiological bases', 'spirituality' and 'mysticism'.

Defining and measuring spirituality

Neurotheology defines spiritual experiences to include subjective reports of phenomena such as:

  • The perception that time, fear or self-consciousness have dissolved
  • Spiritual awe
  • Oneness with the universe
  • Ecstatic trance
  • Sudden enlightenment
  • Altered states of consciousness

These subjective experiences are seen as the basis for many religious beliefs and behaviors.


Early studies in the 1950s and 1960s used EEGs to study brain wave patterns correlated with spiritual states. During the 1980s Dr. Michael Persinger stimulated the temporal lobes of human subjects with a weak magnetic field. His subjects claimed to have a sensation of "an ethereal presence in the room". This work gained a lot of publicity at the time.

Current studies use neuroimaging to localize brain regions active, or differentially active, during spiritual experiences. David Wulf, a psychologist at Wheaton College, Massachusetts, suggests that current brain imaging studies, along with the consistency of spiritual experiences across cultures, history, and religions, "suggest a common core that is likely a reflection of structures and processes in the human brain".


An attempt to marry a materialistic approach like neuroscience to spirituality naturally attracts much criticism. Some of the criticism is philosophical, dealing with the (perceived) irreconcilability between science and spirituality, while some is more methodological, dealing with the issues of studying an experience as subjective as spirituality.

Philosophical criticism

Critics of this approach, like philosopher Ken Wilber and religious scholar Huston Smith, see the more materialistic formulations of the approach as examples of reductionism and scientism that are only looking at the empirical aspects of the phenomena, and not including the possible yet improbable validity of spiritual experience with all of its subjectivity.

Scientific criticism

In 2005 Pehr Granqvist, a psychologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, questioned Dr. Michael Persinger's findings in a paper published in Neuroscience Letters. Granqvist claimed that Persinger's work was not "double blind." Those conducting Persinger's trials, who were often graduate students, knew what sort of results to expect, with the risk that the knowledge would be transmitted to experimental subjects by unconscious cues. They were also frequently given an idea of what was happening by being asked to fill in questionnaires designed to test their suggestibility to paranormal experiences before the trials were conducted. Granqvist set about conducting the experiment double blinded and found that the presence or absence of the field had no relationship with any religious or spiritual experience reported by the participants.

However, Persinger has stood by his findings, arguing that several of his previous experiments have explicitly used double-blind protocols, and that Granqvist failed to fully replicate Persinger's experimental conditions.

As far as My personal opinion on this subject, it definitely holds validity in an analytical sense, although not to discount the emotional response, which holds validity in an experiential / imaginative sense. The principle of The Intellectual Decompression Chamber serves both sides well, for there is definitely a time and place for both. I Am reminded of a statement made by Dr. LaVey once:

"I Am more concerned about how a soup tastes, rather than what the ingredients are."

In other words, what matters are the results obtained whether through Magic or psychodrama, or both. One frequently compliments the other. The emotion expended during ritual powerdrives the analytical configuration of the parchment, thereby fulfilling The Will unto materialization. Satanism reconciles the psychological with the parapsychological perfectly - ergo, The Third Side. Although this would not be catagorized as "spiritual" per se, but wholly carnal, as the results are completely derived from The Self, The Psyche, The Mind.