Tag: Bishop Felipe Estevez

Florida Diocese Hides Abuse Even During a 2020 Criminal Investigation

And in the category of Most Secretive Florida Catholic Diocese, the award goes to. . . .St. Augustine!

Records obtained by law enforcement, show that St. Augustine diocesan officials hid recent abuse reports against a priest, EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A STATEWIDE ATTORNEY GENERAL INVESTIGATION into church abuse and concealment cases.
https://www.news4jax.com/i-team/2021/02/04/former-jacksonville-bishops-failed-to-report-sexual-abuse-allegations-records-show/

And the records contain the names of several credibly accused predator priests whose identities would have almost certainly remained secret if not for that Attorney General probe.

Remember, it was nearly 20 years ago that every U.S. bishop pledged to reform their mishandling of abuse reports, a pledge often honored only in the breach. This pledge, it turns out, was apparently easier for them to make than to uphold.

While the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution was investigating the Catholic abuse scandal just a year ago, a St. Augustine priest – Fr. D. Terrence Morgan – was under investigation by a local police department for a lewd and lascivious act on a child, including allegations he grabbed a child’s butt and sent sexually explicit text messages.

Did St. Augustine Bishop Felipe Estevez share that report with the AG’s office? Nope.

Here are more details:

In 2019, St. Augustine police interviewed Fr. D. Terrence Morgan and his former pastor Fr. Tom Willis.  Fr. Willis admitted he got complaints about Fr. Morgan’s ‘boundary issues’ and he relayed them to his church superiors in 2017.

Fr. Morgan told investigators he’d had “inappropriate contact with a male student” and had “a relationship with two 19-year-old men” but denied any sexual contact with them.

Again, in 2019, St. Augustine’s bishop and his staff – virtually all of them – knew the Florida AG was looking into clergy sex crimes. But not a single person called or wrote the investigators.

Nor did the church hierarchy tell investigators with the Office of Statewide Prosecution about an allegation Fr. Morgan had a sexual relationship with a teenager in 1977.

According to a news account: “The report was filed with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in September 2020 during the state’s investigation.

The Office of Statewide Prosecution didn’t publish its findings until November 2020. The next month, finally, St. Augustine diocese told parishioners the next month there were allegations against Fr. Morgan with a “semblance of truth” and the diocese was conducting a canonical investigation.

The files obtained from the Diocese of St. Augustine have internal investigative documents, emails and notes from cases involving Fr. Thomas McNamara, Fr. Richard Bowles, Fr. William Malone and Fr. William Weinheimer — all credibly accused of sexual abuse. Noticeably missing from the records are files on Fr. John H. Dux, a priest named in the state’s probe of sex abuse in the church and who the Diocese of St. Augustine reported was credibly accused of molesting a child in 1976.

(Morgan taught at Bishop Kenny High School and worked at Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. He retired in 2019.)

(At least three clerics on that list are still alive: Fr. Dux, Jr., Fr David McCreanor and Fr. Michael E. Morse )

Just three months ago, the AG’s final investigation was published. It named 97 priests across Florida who were credibly accused of sexual abuse.

But given how St. Augustine church officials kept silence about allegations against Fr. Morgan, we can’t help but believe that the AG’s report just scratched the surface of abuse here. And we tremble when we think of how many other child molesting priests, brothers, bishops, seminarians, nuns, monks and lay employees have been accused of abuse and are still being protected by Catholic authorities.

Diocese of St. Augustine Got Caught, But Is This Just Business As Usual For The Church?

At first glance, this blog may seem to be about the Diocese of St. Augustine. But we at Horowitz Law are convinced that the inexcusable patterns and practices outlined here – revealed by church and law enforcement records – are typical of many of the Catholic Dioceses in the United States – both in the past and present.

So if you have no particular knowledge of clergy sex crimes and cover-ups in Florida, we still think it’s worth your while to keep reading.  In fact, there’s so much awfulness in just one recent news report about the Diocese of St. Augustine hierarchy that it can’t be covered in just one blog post. So this is the first of two blogs on the subject

For starters, please read this short timeline.  Then tell us, if you can, how St. Augustine Bishop Felipe Estevez can sleep at night.

Fr. William Malone abused several girls in the 1980s.

In 1991, parents told church bosses that he hurt their 11 year old daughter.

In 1992, Malone impregnated a “young parishioner.”

That same year he was quietly moved out of state.

By 1993, his supervisors agreed to pay child support.

A decade later, the same abuse victim reported again, in person, to anew bishop.

By then, the diocese had a ‘review board’ tasked with investigating such reports.

But Bishop Victor Galeone and his top aides refused to tell the board.

 

In 2018, a victim reported, for the third time, that Fr. Malone repeatedly abused her.

This time, finally, the review board began to investigate.

But the Bishop and his staff and his board waited FIVE MONTHS to tell police.

And in 2019, finally, Bishop Estevez told his flock about Fr. Malone’s crimes.

Not surprisingly, then a “deluge” of others came forward disclosing abuse by Fr. Malone.

https://www.news4jax.com/i-team/2021/02/04/former-jacksonville-bishops-failed-to-report-sexual-abuse-allegations-records-show/

How can these decades of irresponsible inaction be excused? And who knows how many other girls Fr. Malone assaulted between 1991 and 2013, when he died? How many of those young victims might have been spared debilitating pain had any of dozens of top church staff simply called 911?

The cover up, in fact, started right away. When the 1991 abuse report was made, church officials deemed it as “conjecture” and “not credible” because parents, not the victimized youngster, met with diocesan staff. (Their daughter didn’t want to talk with diocese officials.)

And another Malone victim reported her abuse in — “but was told she needed to meet with a diocese attorney and staff BY HERSELF to discuss the allegations.”

Could they make things any harder on victims?

Remember, this information comes entirely from written diocesan records and a law enforcement agency about just one of the thirteen proven, admitted and credibly accused Diocese of St. Augustine child molesting clerics the diocese finally posted because of pressure from parishioners and prosecutors.

http://bishop-accountability.org/diocesan_lists/St_Augustine/2020_11_06_St_Augustine_Credibly_Accused.pdf

For more information on these predators, see BishopAccountability.org

And for more on the continuing cover ups in St. Augustine, read our next blog.