Priest Accused of Fondling Girl in 1983 Retires

By Gene Yasuda
Orlando Sentinel (Florida)
March 22, 1995

A Catholic priest once accused of fondling a 12-year-old girl - a claim the Diocese of Orlando paid $250,000 in 1986 to settle - has retired from the ministry, church officials said Tuesday.

The retirement of the Rev. Eamon O'Dowd, 64, who until recently was working in a South Florida church, takes effect immediately, said Mary St. Pierre, a diocesan spokeswoman.

Earlier this month, Bishop Norbert Dorsey instructed O'Dowd to return to Orlando after recent publicity about his past. "In consultation with Bishop Dorsey and diocesan officials, Father O'Dowd has decided to retire from the active ministry," Pierre said. "Eamon O'Dowd is no longer authorized to minister as a priest in the diocese and will not be receiving any future assignments."

O'Dowd, who is out of the country, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In 1983, O'Dowd was arrested on charges of lewd assault while assistant pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in College Park. The charges were dropped after he entered a pretrial diversion program and received counseling.

But court documents show an Orlando arbitration panel awarded the Seminole County girl and her family $250,000 for the priest's actions. A 1986 arbitration report concludes that O'Dowd improperly touched the girl's breasts on several occasions and had an affair with the girl's mother. But in a television interview last month, O'Dowd maintained he is innocent and said that he was framed.

Orlando attorney Charles E. Davis, who represented the family in the O'Dowd case, said they are "extremely happy" he is no longer serving as a priest.


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