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  Man Settles Civil Lawsuit with Diocese
Pensacolian Says Priest Abused Him on 1971 Trip

By Kristen Rasmussen
Pensacola News Journal
October 14, 2005

A local man who claims he was abused by a priest more than 30 years ago has settled a civil lawsuit with the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee and Bishop John Ricard for $30,000.

Diocese spokeswoman Peggy DeKeyser confirmed Thursday that an agreement was reached, but she declined to comment further. A hearing on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit was scheduled this week.

The lawsuit was filed in May by Pensacola resident Paul Tugwell, who claims he was sexually abused by Monsignor Richard Bowles in 1971.

Bowles was a priest at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pensacola when he allegedly tried to have sex with the then-15-year-old Tugwell during a trip to Georgia in 1971, the lawsuit stated.

The diocese's attorney, Al Condon, filed the motion to dismiss in August, saying that the statute of limitations on the case had run out.

In response, Tugwell's lawyer, Joseph Saunders of Pinellas Park, appealed directly to Ricard, asking the bishop to "repudiate" the motion and restore his client's faith by allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

At that time, the diocese said it planned to proceed with the "appropriate defense" on the statute of limitations. Condon could not be reached for comment.

Saunders said his client feels "vindicated" by the agreement.

Tugwell is "very relieved that Bishop Ricard is, essentially, reaching out to him to resolve this," Saunders said. "This settlement has been very beneficial in the healing process for (Tugwell) in the abuse that he has suffered."

Tugwell's suit against the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee and Ricard alleged they concealed and mishandled complaints about Bowles' behavior and continued to allow him to serve as a priest in close contact with children.

Bowles was a priest at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Pensacola when he resigned in 2003 after he was accused of molesting a boy while he was a priest in Jacksonville in 1969. Pensacola churches were part of the Diocese of St. Augustine before the formation of the local diocese in 1975. Ricard became bishop in 1997.

 
 

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