Some churches buzz about a sizable bingo jackpot, or an uncommon act of charity. For a decade at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the parish gossip revolved around the Rev. Edward McLoughlin’s sexuality.
The way he acted around the church’s young boys — constantly touching them, spanking them and pulling on their underwear — clearly wasn’t appropriate.
It was against that backdrop that Father Thaddeus Kloc saw a teenage boy in pajamas walk into the St. Charles rectory bathroom at about 9 a.m. one morning in late 1983. Kloc considered the boy’s presence unusual. Boys weren’t supposed to spend the night in the rectory, which is essentially a dormitory for priests.
The boy’s response bothered Kloc: He said he had spent the night in McLoughlin’s room.
The priest, who has since died, was concerned enough at the time that he told his supervisor about the sleepover.
The response by Pastor Nick McLoughlin, who is Edward McLoughlin’s older brother, was “Do you have a problem with that?” according to Kloc’s sworn statement, taken as part of a 1997 civil case against the diocese.
Nick McLoughlin said this week that he doesn’t remember the conversation with Kloc. “But that’s not to say it didn’t happen,” McLoughlin said.
Bishop John Nevins, the head of the 10-county Diocese of Venice, has since apologized for the church leadership’s lack of response to repeated signs that Edward McLoughlin was a child molester. Nevins said he “failed to connect the dots” based on complaints about how the now-defrocked priest behaved around young boys.
But if Nevins and other diocesan officials failed to protect what they now admit were multiple children abused by McLoughlin, then plenty of others in the St. Charles Church community share blame.
Documents obtained by the Herald-Tribune show that priests, parishioners and teachers affiliated with the church were far from ignorant of McLoughlin’s predilection for boys. Yet no one took definitive action to ensure that he couldn’t molest the parish children.
Some mothers kept their own sons away from him. St. Charles Catholic School teachers physically blocked McLoughlin from entering the room where the boys changed for gym classes.
Complaints were made, but no one took them outside the hierarchy of the Diocese of Venice, despite the fact that Edward McLoughlin’s boss was his brother. Nobody contacted the police or social workers who might have prevented McLoughlin’s decade-long stretch of abusing young boys in Charlotte County’s largest Catholic parish.
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