Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on Clergy Abuse Has Ties to Southwest Florida

| Aug 16, 2018 | Catholic Church

A two-year grand jury probe into decades of sexual misconduct by over 300 abusive Catholic priests in six Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania has produced some startling and disturbing findings. The lengthy reports details over 1100 child victims and a culture of secrecy in which the reputation of the church was valued by Bishops and Diocese officials above the safety of children.

Although the report only addresses incidents of abuse in Pennsylvania, there is a noteworthy connection to the Diocese of Venice and to priests living in Southwest Florida .

Father Robert J. Brague

Father Robert Brague served as a priest in Naples at St. Ann’s in 1990.  He then became the Assistant Pastor at Holy Cross Church in Palmetto, Florida from 1991 to 1997.  He moved for Florida after he impregnated a teenage girl in Pennslyania where he served in the Diocese of Scranton.  The Diocese of Scranton was placed on notice in 1988 that Brague, then pastor at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Towanda, was having sexual contact with a girl beginning when she was 17. He initially denied the relationship but confessed when the girl got pregnant. In April, 1989, the victim gave birth to a baby boy.

On August 25, 1989, the Bishop in Scranton sent a letter to Rev. John Nevins, Bishop of Venice, Florida, saying that Brague would no longer be able to exercise his priesthood in the Diocese of Scranton, but that he wholeheartedly approved of Brague exercising his priesthood in Venice and highly recommended Brague. On Jan. 19, 1990, Brague was appointed Parochial Vicar of St. Ann’s church in Naples, Florida. The Pennsylvania victim filed a civil suit against Brague and the Diocese that was settled in 1995. Brague continued to serve as a priest in Florida until his death in 1997, at age 56.

Father Sean Kerins

The Grand Jury report state he sent inappropriate text messages to a student at Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage Pennsylvania.  Less than a year after ordination he was removed from the priesthood in 2018 by the Diocese of Erie.  Kennis is current ‘under law enforcement investigation’ and living in Naples.

Father Thomas O’Donnell

According to the Grand Jury report, parents in Pennsylvania say he forced their kids to shower in front of him naked and weigh themselves in the late 1980’s Parents also reported O’Donnell made children sleep next to him and speaking to them about inappropriatee sexual topics. O’Donnell has lived in Fort Myers for more than 10 years.

The lengthy report uncovers incidents of sexual abuse by priests dating back to 1947 in six dioceses: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.  In some cases, children were plied with alcohol or other drugs being abused.  The descriptions of the abuse itself are both graphic and disturbing.  But equally troubling is the recklessness with which abusive priests were transferred from parish to parish or given warnings and allowed to proceed as if nothing had occurred.  By way of example, the report notes that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who served as Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for eighteen years, would in some cases allow abusive priests to remain in the ministry working with youth in parishes.

Attorney Adam Horowitz represents children and adults who were victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania who wish to pursue a civil lawsuit.  Our law firm also represents victims of abuse by clergy of all religious denominations in civil lawsuits. If you or someone you know was a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault at a church or other religious organization, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected]