Priest Charged in Fondling Case Is Recalled by Diocese of Orlando

By Jim Leusner
Orlando Sentinel (Florida)
March 7, 1995

A Catholic priest, relocated to South Florida after the Diocese of Orlando paid $250,000 in 1986 to settle claims that he fondled a 12-year-old girl, was recalled to Orlando last week.

Diocese officials said Father Eamon O'Dowd, 64, of Lantana was summoned to his home diocese by Bishop Norbert Dorsey in the wake of recent publicity about his past.

"He was asked to come back," said Sister Lucy Vazquez, chancellor of the diocese. "And at present, we're at the stage with him where we're having discussions about his future."

Vazquez would not say where O'Dowd was staying or discuss his future assignments. A Palm Beach diocese spokeswoman declined to comment on O'Dowd, except to release a two paragraph statement acknowledging the transfer and saying only "favorable" comments were received about O'Dowd when he was working there since the late 1980s.

O'Dowd left Orlando in May 1982 and later worked in Winter Haven before being arrested in 1983 on charges of lewd assault while assistant pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in College Park. Charges were dropped in 1984 after he entered a pre-trial diversion program and received counseling.

He later was sent to Palm Beach County, where he worked in churches in Boynton Beach and Lantana.

O'Dowd has not returned phone calls from The Orlando Sentinel, but he told a television reporter that he never fondled young girls and was "set up." He also said six evaluations he underwent showed he was not a pedophile.

On Feb. 25, the Sentinel reported that court documents showed an Orlando arbitration panel awarded the Seminole County girl and her family $250,000 after she said O'Dowd fondled her, and her mother had an affair with the priest. The family filed suit after the church did not immediately pay. Most court records in the case are sealed and a gag order imposed on the plaintiffs, both at O'Dowd's request.

But the arbitration report filed with the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach shows that arbitrators' "finding of fact" concluded that O'Dowd improperly touched the girl's breasts on several occasions.

The August 1986 report states that O'Dowd had an affair with the girl's mother and also touched the breasts of two other girls in an "inappropriate manner."


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