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When we first wrote about Rev. Robert McWilliams in early 2020, it’s because he was a Catholic priest from Ohio who had been charged with possession of illicit images and videos of children. When law enforcement officials raided his living space inside St. Joseph Catholic Church in Strongsville, Ohio, they found evidence of even more illegal material.

This past July, McWilliams pleaded guilty to eight separate counts of sex trafficking of a minor, sexual exploitation of a child, and more.

All of that was bad enough. But not nearly as bad as it is now that we know the specifics.

Now it’s time to decide how long he’ll be locked up, which depends on how seriously a judge weighs the extremely disturbing details.

For example, McWilliams heard confessions from several boys who came clean about their “sins”… only to use that information to blackmail those boys into sending him sexually explicit photos. He also got close to a number of families only to take advantage of his access.

[Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol Skutnik] wrote that McWilliams “violated the sacrament of confession to obtain information he later used, under aliases, to seek the production of sexually explicit material from boys he was ‘counseling.’”

“[McWilliams] was cunning, calculating and extremely cruel,” Skutnik wrote. “Only a sociopath could accept the hospitality of a family only to disappear into another room to transmit images of a victim to his mother so he could witness the pain inflicted upon his hosts.”

Skutnik said McWilliams “led the quintessential double life, professing the [tenets] of Christianity in public while using fake identities and technology to conceal his sexual attraction to minors.”

He also demanded that his victims lead him to other potential victims:

… McWilliams used the social networking website to make contact with a minor victim for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex. McWilliams then enticed this minor victim to identify another minor victim with whom McWilliams could engage in commercial sex acts. McWilliams met the victims on multiple occasions for the purpose of engaging in sex acts in exchange for money and alcohol.

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is offering the usual thoughts and prayers… but at least they’re also cooperating with law enforcement. Furthermore, while McWilliams no longer works for them, they’re working to make sure McWilliams is also stripped of his clerical title (a move that requires jumping through more Vatican hoops) so he can never work in a different church again.

McWilliams could face anywhere from 40 years to life in prison if a judge agrees with prosecutors. His own lawyer is trying to get the number down to 15 years. No amount of prison time, however, will make up for the trauma he inflicted upon those boys.

(Thanks to Jessica for the link)

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.