YOUNGSTOWN A former priest included on a 2018 list of clergy under investigation for improper conduct has been cleared by the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.
In a statement from the diocese, an investigation found no credible evidence to support accusations made against the former Rev. William Smaltz involving the sexual abuse of a minor.
A native of Youngstown, Smaltz, 89, was ordained in the 1950s. He served at St. Mary’s Parish in Massillon, St. Edward parish in Youngstown, Our Lady of Lourdes in East Palestine and St. Mary’s in Conneaut.
Smaltz left the priesthood in the 1970s and later married.
According to a report published by the Vindicator, Smaltz and his attorney presented the diocese with evidence disputing the accusation, which resulted in the investigation being dropped.
Also, Smaltz’s accuser did not respond to repeated requests by the diocese to be interviewed after Smaltz presented his evidence.
Smaltz was one of 31 clergymen who came under investigation, which examined a 75-year period.
However, one activist group is demanding more.
Judy Jones, Midwest regional director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said they want to know how the original investigation was conducted and who did it, adding that a lack of details is a disservice to the public.
"This is a clear example of why all investigations into crimes like sexual abuse must be done by secular, professional law enforcement officials," Jones said in a statement.
"We cannot know which investigation was botched by diocesan leaders in Youngstown, but is clear that something has gone wrong. Bishop George Murry should address this situation publicly, explaining how the first allegations were investigated and by whom and what information came to light to cast doubt on their earlier findings. Absent this transparency, it is hard to trust in the decisions made by Catholic officials in Youngstown."
Monsignor John Zuraw, diocesan chancellor, said the diocese tries to be respectful of both the accuser and the accused. Diocesan investigations are conducted by retired Youngstown Police Department Detective Sgt. Delphine Baldwin-Casey, who specializes in sexual-abuse crimes.
Smaltz’s son Billy told the Vindicator: "There are good priests like my father getting sucked into this whirlpool of accusations. Somebody needs to be accountable for this. This is a huge redemptive story that a lot of people need to hear. His name has been cleared, and we want the public to know about it."