Many retired people have chosen to make their home in Florida, and clergymen are no exception. However, some of the priests who have chosen to retire in Florida have been accused of sexual abuse.
Relocating under the radar
According to news sources, 97 priests accused of misconduct are now in Florida. The investigation did not reveal current and ongoing reports of sexual abuse, however.
Reports found that 81 priests who had reports of sexual abuse on their record were transferred, relocated or retired to Florida. In some cases, the church bishops who received the transferred priest did not know of the abuse charges.
In many cases, the statute of limitations made it impossible for the victims to prosecute the priests that had assaulted them because the statute of limitations had expired. If the incident was not reported within 72 hours after it occurred, charges could not be filed.
For assaults that occurred after July of 2020, however, Donna’s Law eliminates any statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes perpetrated against people younger than 18. There is no longer a time limit on criminal prosecution in these cases.
Sexual abuse by a Catholic priest is an ongoing issue, and nine of the accused have association with the Diocese of Venice in southwest Florida. They may no longer practice.
Because most of the abuse perpetrated by these priests was unofficially reported, it would likely not show up on a background check. However, churches that are receiving new priests should do their due diligence and follow up with the newcomer’s previous assignment to ask if there had been any previous allegations of impropriety. Doing a little bit of digging can go a long way toward preventing future crimes.