Former Altar Boy Hits Orlando Diocese with Sex Abuse Lawsuit
By Jeff Kunerth
October 2, 2013
A lawsuit filed this week against the Catholic Diocese of Orlando alleges that the diocese covered up the sexual abuse of an altar boy by a Catholic priest serving in Sanford.
The lawsuit contends Father William Authenrieth sexually molested a 14-year-old altar boy at All Souls Church in Sanford in 1983 and 1984. The suit alleges Authenrieth fondled the boy and warned him not to disclose the sexual acts or the priest would tell everyone the altar boy was gay.
The suit alleges that the diocese, after learning of the molestation, transferred Authenrieth to a parish in Mount Dora but did nothing to punish the priest.
"Indeed, Father Authenrieth climbed the ladder of the Diocese of Orlando's hierarchy while simultaneously being transferred between and among parishes to prevent parishioners from learning of Father Authenrieth's pattern of abuse," said the suit filed Monday by Jeff Herman, a Boca Raton attorney who represents sexual-abuse victims.
In response, the diocese said it has not yet been served with the lawsuit, but Chancellor for Administration Carol Brinati issued this statement: "We are saddened at the allegation of abuse which occurred more than twenty-five years ago and pray for this person and those who have been victims of acts of abuse by any person. We pray that the healing process may begin for each one of them."
The lawsuit says the boy, now 44 and called John Doe, had no memory of the sexual abuse until July 2012, when he saw a television report about another man who sued the diocese over allegations that Authenrieth also molested him while he was an altar boy at St. Mary's Church in Rockledge in 1978.
"In subsequent months, John experienced depression, anxiety, and restlessness," said the lawsuit, which asks the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court for "compensatory damages."
In the case involving the boy at St. Mary's, the lawsuit said the abuse took place when Authenrieth invited the boy to his residence to practice playing the organ. Authenrieth also allegedly abused boys during sleepovers at his residence, and in the church sacristy, where he was alone with them behind locked doors.
In 1985, four boys sued the diocese alleging abuse by Authenrieth from 1978 to 1983 at St. Mary's. Authenrieth admitted molesting the boys but was not prosecuted because of evidence problems. He was asked to leave the priesthood.
Brinati said the Most Rev. Thomas Grady removed Authenrieth from ministry Oct. 22, 1985, and Authenrieth left the priesthood in 1986. The latest lawsuit says Authenrieth now lives in Massachusetts