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  Diocese Settles Sex Cases
Some of the Men Who Have Accused a Priest of Abusing Them As Youths Have Settled out of Court, Church Officials Said

By Jim Leusner and Debbie Salamone
Orlando Sentinel [Florida]
August 25, 1995

The Catholic Diocese of Orlando announced Thursday it has reached out-of-court settlements with some men who say they were sexually abused as youths by a priest who later became a top church official.

Diocese Chancellor Sister Lucy Vazquez offered no details about the settlements but said six men have made allegations against Father Lawrence Redmond. The latest man came forward only this week, she said.

Vazquez said church officials have notified the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office in Orlando and are referring the latest report to its crisis response team - a panel of professionals and laymen who advise the church on sexual abuse policy.

"At this stage of the game, we are taking the allegations at face value and we're trying to get with the victim," she said.

For 3 1/2 years before his retirement in January, Redmond was one of Bishop Norbert Dorsey's top two deputies, known as vicar generals, and served as a pastor in Ormond Beach.

Redmond was the third priest to be sued this year as part of a continuing sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church's image and reached into its finances.

Tampa lawyer Thomas Granahan said he represents three men - two of them brothers - who claim Redmond abused them in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Granahan confirmed that both sides recently reached a settlement in a suit on behalf of one man that he filed May 11 in Orange Circuit Court. The amount of money was not disclosed.

As part of the deal, the church will be dropped from the suit. But the action will proceed against Redmond, 59, who diocese officials say retired because of a heart problem.

Reached at his home in St. Augustine, Redmond declined to comment. "I'm not at liberty to discuss it," he said.

Granahan said he plans to file suit in Orlando next week on behalf of a second man who says he was abused. He said the clients have suffered emotionally and question their belief in God.

"When the emissary of God is the one forgiving them for their sins in confession and he's the abuser, then you have the concept of a predator-priest," Granahan said. "And try to reconcile that in a child's mind."

According to the lawyer, his clients were abused at the rectory of St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Goldenrod, where Redmond served as pastor in the mid-70s; the San Pedro Center retreat in Winter Park; and at a home the priest used near St. Augustine.

Redmond stepped down after fliers accusing him of abusing young boys were placed on cars last Dec. 18 during Sunday services at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Ormond Beach. Redmond was placed on a leave of absence and retired in January.

Diocese officials said they never received any complaints against Redmond and were unable to find any alleged victims. But the brother of the man who sued Redmond acknowledged to The Orlando Sentinel that relatives distributed the fliers.

Vazquez said the diocese and its response team are re-evaluating screening procedures for priests, deacons and volunteers who work with children, in addition to examining its handling of sexual abuse problems.

"We certainly do not approach victims and try to disprove what they're saying," she said. "We're trying to help people who have been hurt."

In February, a former altar boy sued the church and former Chancellor Arthur Bendixen in Orlando, alleging the priest sexually abused him from 1982 to 1994, beginning when the boy was 13.

Bendixen, 44, who resigned from the active ministry last year and lives in Chicago, has denied molesting the boy.

The church also is battling a lawsuit filed in Brevard County involving sexual molestation by former priest Thomas Pagni, 45.

The suit accuses the church of concealing Pagni's sexual misconduct, forcing him out of the priesthood in 1986 and paying for his education as a mental health counselor.

Pagni, who faces a criminal charge of molesting a 17-year-old counseling client in 1992, maintains he is innocent.

 
 

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