Experts Discuss Media Coverage of Catholic Priests' 'Struggles,' Odd Bouts of Navel-Gazing Ensue

  • McGonegal
For some reason, The Plain Dealer posted a story titled "Experts discuss why the struggles of priests are so well publicized." The occasion for this little discussion comes about following the Rev. James McGonegal's three-count indictment, which includes a felony count for failing to disclose his HIV-positive status when he propositioned a Metroparks ranger.

...It's unclear why the preceding was classified among the "struggles" of priests on

Anyway, the newsworthiness of the McGonegal incident should be clear to any reader or writer - Catholic or otherwise. McGonegal, a man who bears some semblance of moral authority in his community and certainly qualifies as a public figure, solicited sex in a public parking lot and hid the fact that he was harboring a life-threatening virus. Potentially dangerous stuff, hence the news coverage (which, to be sure, The Plain Dealer heaped online en masse).

And that reportage is important for numerous public safety, criminal justice and religious dialogue reasons, but today's bout of navel-gazing and apologia surely isn't.

To review, here's a quick recap of the McGonegal incident from October:

McGonegal pulled into the Edgewater Park parking lot, and a plain-clothes park ranger happened to be in the area. The ranger was leaving the parking lot and about to head down the trail head, but McGonegal had rolled down his window and begun tapping on the door frame. He was gesturing toward the ranger.

As the report goes on, the ranger continued walking out of sight, but then stopped and headed back to figure out what was going on. As he returned to the SUV, McGonegal was pulling out of his spot, but then quickly shifted back into it when he saw the ranger approaching.

The two got into conversation, with McGonegal explaining that he wanted "to get off," and that he'd pay $50. The ranger questioned him and soon asked to "see it." McGonegal then exposed himself to the ranger and began masturbating in his car. The ranger explained who we was and promptly arrested the priest.

Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
Scroll to read more Cleveland News articles

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.