Toledo — A priest schooled in the occult testified that the 1980 slaying of a nun was filled with dark symbolism and signs that a ritual transpired.
And only “a nun, a priest or possibly a seminarian” would have the full knowledge of what all the signs meant.
A priest is on trial in the slaying — the Rev. Gerald Robinson.
He is accused of stabbing Sister Margaret Ann Pahl 31 times — in cluding nine times in the form of an in verted cross.
The Rev. Jeffrey Grob was the prose cution’s first witness Monday morning and the 23rd since the trial began last week. He has studied and written about exorcism, the occult and religious rituals.
Prosecutors have claimed that some sort of ritual occurred when the nun was slain 26 years ago, and reports of satanic cults have circulated through northwest Ohio, both in relationship to the case and independently of it.
On the witness stand, Grob said, “Some sort of ritual activity has taken place.”
He listed numerous symbols and Roman Catholic rites that appeared to be deliberately perverted during the nun’s slaying.
“These are not random acts,” he said.
He said he has a background in canon law, the code of the Roman Catholic Church, and sits as an appellate judge in marriage annulments.
Grob was called because of his knowledge of religious ritual and the occult. He said that he is consulted when the diocese receives reports of possession, and that he assists the diocesan exorcist.
At no time during his testimony did Grob point an accusing finger at Robinson. The two men stood out in the Lucas County Courtroom because each wore the so-called Roman collar indicating a member of the priesthood.
Grob said that taken together, the various images and misused symbols used in the slaying constituted a ritual.
He did not say a member of the clergy committed the desecrations or the slaying. But he said the average Catholic would not have an understanding of all the symbols present at the murder scene, that only someone with sophisticated knowledge of ritual would understand them – namely a nun, priest or seminarian for the priesthood.
To lay a foundation for his testimony, Grob explained many aspects of Catholic ritual, including the significance of the Eucharist, the consecrated, unleavened bread and wine that Catholics believe becomes the actual body and blood of Christ during Communion.
He also went into detail about the significance of Easter and how consecrated hosts are removed from the main altar for part of the time leading up to Easter Sunday.
The hosts were in a repository close by Pahl’s body. She was found in the sacristy of the hospital chapel where she and Robinson worked. Grob called the presence of the Eucharist at the crime scene significant.
Prosecutors also tried to amplify their claims about Robinson lying to police when he said the real killer admitted the crime during the sacrament of confession. Robinson had retracted that claim during the same interrogation and said it was because he was afraid.
Grob said that under canon law, breaching the sanctity of the confessional is punishable by instant excommunication – that is, denial of the sacraments.
But the Chicago priest said that applies only if there was an actual confession and the identity of the person could be revealed.
Defense lawyers did little to challenge Grob’s testimony except to ask about the consequences of making statements about a confession that never occurred. Grob said there would be a penalty, but less severe.
It is unclear whether defense lawyers will call Robinson to testify on his own behalf, but his voice was heard in the courtroom Monday when prosecutors played a 2004 interrogation that police videotaped.
On it, Robinson said another priest at the hospital accused him of killing the nun, and he never understood why. The detective questioning him continued to bore in on the fact that Robinson did not challenge the other priest and question him about the accusation.
During a break in the interrogation, Robinson is seen alone in the interview room, apparently unaware that he is being videotaped. He seems to fold his hands in prayer and it sounds as if he utters the word “sister.”