Florida Bishops’ Need to Significantly Improve their Accused Predator Priest Lists

by | Jul 26, 2023 | Catholic Church, Firm News

Florida Bishops Horowitz Law

Three of Florida’s seven Catholic bishops refuse to reveal and publicly post lists of their child molesting clerics. To give you an idea of how this stacks up with bishops across the US, keep in mind that all but about a dozen of the nation’s nearly 200 prelates post such lists. The Florida holdouts include Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Palm Beach Bishop Gerald Barbarito, and Venice Bishop Frank Dewane. Ironically, these three prelates head the three dioceses, which, one could argue, in which the need to reveal predator priests’ names is among the greatest.

The Archdiocese of Miami is especially in need of improvement because the Miami area has a vast number of immigrants, legal and otherwise. Most of them are Catholic. Most are far more vulnerable to abusive priests than US-born Catholics because of cultural differences, power imbalances, and legal status or worries. The Miami Archdiocese also has a disproportionate number of foreign-born clergy. No evidence suggests that foreign-born individuals are more prone to molestation than any other group, but it is considerably harder to ‘vet’ and do background checks on priests from abroad. And child molesting clerics in most of the developing world are far less apt to be publicly exposed as wrongdoers than US-born clerics, partly because of more poorly funded and developed criminal and civil processes in those nations.

Palm Beach is another big one that needs to greatly improve its credibly accused list with accurate and pertinent details because it may be the only diocese in the US that had two predatory prelates at the helm: Bishop Anthony O’Connell (1999-2002) and Bishop Joseph Keith Symons (1990-1998).

The New York Archdiocese has had three bishops, Auxiliary Bishop John J. Jenik, Auxiliary Bishop Theodore McCarrick, and Bishop Dinualdo Destajo, who has been accused of abusing children, and two others, Cardinal Francis Spellman and Bishop James Francis McCarthy, were accused of sexual involvement with vulnerable adults. But it’s never been headed by a ‘credibly accused’ child molesting bishop, archbishop, or cardinal.)

That brings us to the Diocese of Venice. The diocese was founded 40 years ago when the abuse crisis began making headlines across the US. In 1984, the Lafayette, Louisiana Diocese settled with nine victims of Fr. Gilbert Gauthe, who became the first US priest whose child sex crimes attracted national attention. One could argue that if there’s one diocese that needs to handle abuse cases better in the Sunshine State, it is Venice, in which church officials were perhaps less mired in decades-old patterns of secrecy and recklessness around child sex crimes and cover-ups. And for the entire history of the Venice Diocese, its officials have been painfully aware that clergy were assaulting children and that unless serious changes were made in bishops’ behavior, those assaults were apt to continue.

So what of the four Florida bishops who HAVE posted lists? Sadly, Florida bishops have done a deliberately inaccurate and inadequate job of posting credibly accused lists of predator priests that could help people. Some bishops give a lot of detail about their predator priests, like photos, work histories, ‘last known whereabouts,’ how many abuse reports against them, when those reports were made, how church officials responded, and whether there’s been any legal action against them. But few, if any, Florida bishops provide this helpful information.

Bishop John Noonan of the Orlando diocese posted one of the worst lists of predator priests. He details no allegations against them and includes zero facts about them (except whether they’re alive or deceased.) The now-deceased Orlando credibly accused clerics are: William Authenrieth, James Coyle, Cyril Donnelley, Kathleen Francis Honc, John McCullen, Stephen McNicholas, Eamon O’Dowd, James Pagni, Hubert Reason, Larry Redmond, Thomas Sykes, and Peter Uniowski. The still-living Orlando credibly accused clerics are: Art Bendixen, Richard Emerson, James Ingram, Ronald Johnson, Jose Mena, Oscar Salazar, Joseph Tran Anh Dung, and Vernon Uhran. 

Bishop Erik Pohlmeier of the St. Augustine diocese released a list of accused clerics around 2019 but provided no updates since then. Now his diocesan website no longer includes the ‘credibly accused’ list at all, or it’s cleverly buried so that it takes considerable time and poking around to find it, dramatically decreasing its helpfulness.

At least their St. Augustine abusers are still alive: John H. Dux, Jr., David McCreanor, and Michael E. Morse. The deceased predators include Richard Bowles, Gilles J.R. Brault, John Byrne, Cornelius “Neil” Carr, Augustus “Gus” Griffin, Howard C. Litts, William J. Malone, Thomas V. McNamara, James Flannan Walsh, and William J. Weinheimer. His list is almost as sketchy as the Orlando is, except that Bishop Pohlmeier does disclose the rough ranges, in years, of each predator’s crimes.

Bishop William A. Wack of the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese actually provides two separate lists of accused child molesting clerics. He names ten men who have worked in the diocese and are “credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor or minors, as confirmed by the Florida Attorney General.” They are Vijay Bhaskar, Lawrence Boucher, Richard Bowles, Richard Castillo, Michael Cherup, Thomas Crandall, Samuel Curry, Jonathan Franklin, Edward Jungquist, and David McCreano. Then, he names another eight men who have worked in the diocese and are “credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor or minors, “in addition to the list provided by the Attorney General’s Office.” (They are James Bluett, Philip Halstead, Todd Hevia, Eddie Jones, Timothy Pathe, Louis Reczek, Arthur Terminello, and Michael Wever.

Unfortunately, Bishop Wack does not explain why the AG’s office didn’t know about ALL of these predators. We at Horowitz Law are left guessing that when the AG did his investigation, these additional eight predators were perhaps still hidden by the bishop and his staff.

Bishop Gregory Parkes of the St. Petersburg Diocese names nine clergy and five lay people who are or were in the diocese and are ‘credibly accused’ of assaulting kids. The clergy are Richard Allen, Norman Balthazar, Rocco D’Angelo, William Lau, Hubert Reason, Michael Rhodes, James Russo, Robert Schaeufele, and Keith Symons. The lay employees are Robert Allen, Leon Gilberti, Emil Anastia, Scott Stern, and Tom Nibbio.

However, Bishop Parkes’ list is far from complete, as he openly admits on his website. “Priests of other dioceses and priests of religious communities who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor or minors and have served in our diocese are NOT included in this list,” he explains. Nor does he provide the names of “Lay religious (brothers, sisters, nuns) who have been credibly accused and have served in our diocese.”

Why these serious omissions? The bishop won’t say. It’s hard for us here at Horowitz Law to imagine a plausible way Bishop Parkes might defend his secrecy other than perhaps admitting it’s easier for him to provide less information and fewer names than more information and more names. 

Oddly, both Bishop Wack and Bishop Parkes refuse to identify their ‘credibly accused’ as clerics, referring to them merely as ‘individuals.’ Don’t Catholic parents deserve to know whether the person who sexually assaulted boys or girls at their parish was a monk, brother, priest, monsignor, nun, seminarian, deacon, or bishop?

We may weigh in further later on about the inadequacies of these poorly done or non-existent church lists. But for now, here’s one more disturbing fact about how secretive Florida’s seven bishops are being and have been about predator priests: They began posting the names of child molesting clerics in 2018. But some of their peers started doing so more than 20 years ago.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.