|Victims' Group Warns of Accused Ex-Priest
By Jeff Brumley
April 29, 2008
A clergy sexual abuse victims group scheduled a news conference downtown Monday to warn Jacksonville residents about an accused offender and former priest living in the community.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests went ahead with the event despite learning moments beforehand that the former minister, Jose Mena, no longer resides at the downtown address they reported, and that he may be living in Europe instead.
The idea, group spokesman Daniel Frondorf said at the Duval County Courthouse, was to encourage potential victims to seek help.
"Where he is is important, but what also matters is where this guy has been," Frondorf said.
Mena had been at Immaculate Conception parish downtown, where he occasionally helped celebrate Masses from 1999 to 2004 as a retired priest, said Kathleen Bagg-Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Jacksonville-based Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine.
At the time, Mena was living at the Cathedral Residences Towers senior community downtown, Bagg-Morgan said. The facility is not owned or operated by the diocese.
The Catholic church revoked Mena's priestly credentials after a 2005 civil suit against the dioceses of St. Augustine and Orlando.
The plaintiff in that suit, which was settled, accused Mena of sexual abuse at a parish in Sarasota in the late 1960s. The Jacksonville diocese was a co-defendant because it covered that part of the state at the time, Bagg-Morgan said.
Mena is now the target of a lawsuit that a 46-year-old Orlando man filed in February against the Catholic Diocese of Orlando. That suit claims the diocese allowed Mena to function as a priest despite knowledge of credible accusations he was molesting altar boys during the 1970s.
The plaintiff said he was abused by the former priest, now 79, at a parish in Winter Garden during the early and mid-1970s.
Bagg-Morgan said Mena left Jacksonville for his native Spain shortly after the 2005 lawsuit was settled.
Shirley Haynes, the service coordinator at Cathedral Residences Towers, said Mena had not lived at the facility in her three years there and could not confirm he had ever lived there.
Mena cannot serve in active ministry in any Catholic diocese, Bagg-Morgan said, because he has lost his credentials and cannot obtain the requisite "letter of suitability" to change jurisdictions.
The diocese has received no accusations of abuse against Mena from any of its current parishes, Bagg-Morgan said.
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