Tag: Florida Attorney General

Florida Attorney General Report on Clergy Abuse & Cover Up Disappoints

The more we read the just-released report by Florida state authorities into Catholic child sex crimes and cover ups, the more disappointed we are at Horowitz Law. Here are some of the reasons why:

—-Unlike reports issued in other states, Florida officials refused to make even one recommendation to reduce the chances of abuse and cover up in the future (neither for external reforms through the legislature nor internal church reforms).

—-The report misleadingly implied that one recently-adopted legal change (extending the criminal statute of limitations) was sufficient to prevent scandals like this in the future.

—-While 97 accused Florida predator priests are mentioned by name in the report, almost no details about them are given – no photos, work histories, last known whereabouts,

—-While dozens of accused priests from other states, who came to or were sent to Florida, are listed by name, almost no details about them are given, not even the names of the dioceses in which they offended or were ordained.

—-Almost no ‘enablers are mentioned by name, the non-offending church staff and supervisors who ignored suspicions or reports of abuse and/or hid those suspicions or reports from police, prosecutors, parents, parishioners and the press.

http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/SSWN-BV4R8E/$file/Report.pdf

—-Only two child molesting clerics – Fr. Rocco D’angelo and Ernesto Garcia-Rubio – are examined in any depth.

In fairness, there are some positive parts of the report:

–It did list more than 170 accused child molesting Catholic clerics in Florida by name.

–It concluded what many of us have known for years, that “Florida was one of the states to where (accused predator) priests were routinely relocated.”

–It noted that sometimes, though not always, noting that sometimes Florida bishops were warned (by bishops elsewhere) of the clerics’ criminal pasts.

–It include the names of those pedophile priests from up north who came down here. (Some are notorious serial predators, like Romano Ferraro, now serving a life sentence in Massachusetts, and Norman Rogge, who may be the only priest who was put back into ministry twice, after two child sex abuse convictions.)

https://www.snapnetwork.org/ma_mo_victims_applaud_tough_sentence_for_abusive_priest

https://www.snapnetwork.org/a_priest_on_his_way_to_breaking_an_abuse_record

–At least one ‘enabler’ — Bishop (later Archbishop) Coleman Carroll of Miami – is named.

Sadly, throughout the document, nearly all other enablers remain concealed. When discussing the cover ups, the authors use the passive voice: “Law enforcement was not notified of the crimes.” Or the enablers are identified as institutions, not individuals: “.”

Maybe the most upsetting parts of the report, however, are one likely outcome and one glaring omission.

The outcome

First, for wounded victims, there’s usually relief when long-hidden crimes and cover ups like this are revealed (especially if names and details of predators and enablers are disclosed).

For innocent children, however, there’s risk when revelations like this happen. The risk (as we explained in our earlier post) can be summed up in one word: complacency.

We tend to assume that once scandals have been publicized, those in charge are already taking steps to prevent future scandals. And of course, in the worlds of business, politics and non-profits, that often happens.

But the Catholic church is different. It’s an ancient, resilient, secretive kingdom headed exclusively by unelected, elderly, hand-picked “don’t rock the boat” men (the pope and his bishops) who hold their rarified positions in this rigid hierarchy until they die. People literally kneel before them, kiss their rings, and call them ‘your excellency,’ ‘your grace’ and similar titles. And neither their paychecks, their power, their prestige nor their perks are hurt when they perform poorly.

That’s NOT a recipe for reform. That’s a recipe for continued irresponsible behavior. And that’s still the practice, culture and climate in Catholicism.

(For more reasons to stay vigilant, avoid complacency and basically ignore the church hierarchy’s claim that ‘all’s now well,’ check out this report done by an independent non-profit).

https://childusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Archdiocesan_Policies_WhitePaper_10-1-20s.pdf)

The omission

The report should have been replete with sentences like these:

“We beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to keep calling us.”

“Disclosing such horror is tough, so we commend the brave survivors who have spoken up.”

“Our hearts ache that none of these selfish and callous clerics can be criminally charged.”

“Police and prosecutors are getting more aggressive and skilled at pursuing crimes, even ones that happened long ago. So please pick up the phone.”

“We know only a small minority of victims ever come forward, so no one should consider this a thorough document.”

These omissions, tragically, send precisely the wrong message to still-suffering victims who feel trapped in silence and hopelessness. That message is “All’s OK now. We don’t particularly care about your pain. And we’re not especially anxious to hear from you.”

Please know, however, that we at Horowitz Law feel differently. We are ALWAYS anxious to hear from those who hurt and who seek justice, healing and prevention.

https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/state/florida-closes-investigation-into-catholic-church-alleged-sexual-abuse-by-priests

 

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in Florida.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a Catholic priest, clergyman or other lay employee of a Diocese or Archdiocese in Florida, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in Florida  have legal options, but statutes of limitations will apply so do not delay in contacting us now.  Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Florida and nationwide.

Florida Attorney General Horowitz Law

Where is the Florida Attorney General’s Report on Clergy Sexual Abuse?

In October 2018, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that her office was opening a comprehensive investigation into allegations that Florida’s seven Catholic dioceses had engaged in a widespread coverup of sexual abuse allegations involving priests.  Bondi’s announcement followed the release of the landmark Pennsylvania Attorney General’s report into five Catholic dioceses, which resulted in the disclosure that more than 300 Catholic priests had been accused of sexual abuse there. Other states’ Attorneys General have since released similar reports.

The Florida investigation is particularly important because Florida became a dumping ground for problem priests for several decades as the Florida Catholic community grew and bishops up north wanted to get rid of older priests who had been the subject of allegations.  A flock of unsuspecting parishioners has long been tended to by wolves with collars, and usually with little to no warnings to the faithful about the risks to their children.

“Any priest that would exploit a position of power and trust to abuse a child is a disgrace to the church and a threat to society,” Bondi said in her October 2018 press conference.  We could not agree more.

But where is the Florida Attorney General’s report?  It is now nearly two years since the investigation was opened and survivors and the Catholic faithful have no more answers than they did in 2018.

Earlier this week, the Twitter account of the SNAP Florida organization, which is dedicated to the advocacy and support of survivors of clergy sexual abuse, quoted an official in the AG’s office, Rita Pavan Peters.  According to the Tweet, Ms. Pavan Peters stated “[w]e’re in the final stages of our review.  I anticipate information being released in the near future.”

As advocates and attorneys for clergy sexual abuse victims in Florida, we implore our colleagues in the Attorney General’s office to complete their investigation and publish their findings.  Our attorneys have been involved in clergy sexual abuse cases in Florida for decades, and we know it is no small task to review the endless evidence of hurt kids and coverups, but enough is enough.  Survivors deserve to see the truth they all know in black and white.

We hope that the information on the SNAP Twitter account is accurate and that we will see this report very soon.  We hope that the report is transparent and complete.  And we sincerely hope that it leads to a revolution of Florida laws that currently close the courthouse doors to most survivors of sexual abuse because they did not come forward in their twenties, when the average age to report sexual abuse for the first time is 52.  Florida’s clergy sexual abuse survivors deserve accountability and healing.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Catholic Dioceses of Florida.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Florida, contact our office today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Florida and nationwide. We can help. Contact us at (888) 283-9922 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com to discuss your options today.

 

Florida’s Clergy Abuse Victims Deserve Answers From Attorney General

Florida Attorney General Sexual Abuse

In July 2018, Pennsylvania’s attorney general released a stunning report about clergy sexual abuse in that state. It generated lots of attention and media coverage.  The next morning, Florida’s then-attorney general said that she ordered a similar statewide inquiry here in the Sunshine State.

https://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2018/10/05/florida-ag-pam-bondi-launches-statewide-investigation-into-sexual-abuse-by-priests

That was 18 months ago.

What progress has been made here? No one knows.

Last June, Florida’s current attorney general was asked that question. Her spokesperson said, “As this investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further at this time.”

https://www.nbc-2.com/story/40628798/florida-catholic-church-sex-abuse-investigation-shrouded-in-secrecy

Huh?

We get that some secrecy is critical when law enforcement goes after potential criminals. But both of our AG’s (Pam Biondi, who started this probe, nor Ashley Moody, who heads it now) have been extraordinarily (and we believe irresponsibly) silent about the status of their investigation.

Neither have told Floridians anything that might help them protect themselves and their families from Catholic child molesters.

Fortunately, there’s more disclosure elsewhere.

In recent months, several state officials across the US have released reports about clergy sex crimes and cover ups.

–In Colorado, they disclosed that 97 of the 166 victims in the state were sexually abused “after the Colorado dioceses were on notice that the priests were child sex abusers.” They also broke down the abusers by dioceses (22 in Denver, 19 in Pueblo and 2 in Colorado Springs).

https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/colorado-releases-new-report-catholic-sex-abuse-state

–In Kansas, they revealed that 119 victims have contacted them “related to recent or past sexual abuse committed by clergy members” and state agents “have initiated 74 investigations in 33 different Kansas counties.”

http://www.accesskansas.org/kbi/docs/media%20releases/Media%20Release%20-%20KBI%20updates%20on%20progress%20of%20clergy%20abuse%20investigation.pdf

–In Illinois, they revealed that bishops are STILL hiding the names of more than 500 clergy accused of abuse and “have deemed 26% (of all abuse reports) as ‘credible’, meaning 74% of the allegations were either not investigated, or were investigated but not (deemed) ‘substantiated.’”

http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/pressroom/2018_12/Catholic_Church_Preliminary_FindingsUpdate121918.pdf

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-met-illinois-attorney-general-catholic-priest-abuse-20181219-story.html

Thank heavens at least SOME public officials are giving some crucial facts to those who elected them.

This information helps kids to be safer, parents to be vigilant, Catholics to be skeptical and employers to do more to avoid and oust predators. (For example, surely at least some headhunters, recruiters and human resources personnel in Illinois saw news coverage of these 500 accused but ‘under the radar’ clerics and are digging deeper into the past of former Catholic clerics who apply for jobs at their firms.)

Other attorneys general have gone further, not just giving information but taking action:

–Missouri’s AG referred 12 priests to local prosecutors that he believes could be pursued (despite the state’s dreadfully restrictive statute of limitations).

https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/missouri-ag-to-refer-cases-of-catholic-clergy-sex-abuse/article_3f234064-f8b6-52f8-81b0-c1b8a152021a.html

–Michigan’s AG has charged at least 7 priests (after having gotten 641 tips on her clergy abuse hotline, heard from 552 victims identified 270 alleged priest offenders, and seized 1.5 million paper documents and 3.5 million electronic documents – which were reviewed by 32 volunteers who put in over 1,400 hours at night and on weekends, according to the Detroit News).

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/12/23/michigan-nessel-clergy-abuse-probe/2737645001/

So again, what’s up here in the Sunshine State?

Many are accustomed to officials in private institutions who refuse to be open about child sex abuse. But it’s harder to understand and accept PUBLICLY-elected officials in PUBLIC institutions, spending PUBLIC money who refuse to be open about child sex abuse.