Office of Statewide Prosecution’s Report on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church in Florida

State of Florida – Office of the Attorney General

November 6, 2020

[Note: This brief report includes two lists:
– Alleged Priests in Florida and reason for impossibility of a criminal prosecution
– Credibly Accused Priests Relocated to Florida by the Church]

Executive Summary

In October 2018, the Office of Statewide Prosecution (“OSP”) with the assistance of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (“FDLE”) began an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of children in Florida by priests of the Catholic Church (the “Church”). OSP began that investigation after reviewing the findings of a grand jury report by a Pennsylvania grand jury that found sexual abuse by Church priests and wrongful actions by the Church in response to reports of that sexual abuse. This investigation did not find any instances indicating children in Florida were currently in immediate danger of sexual abuse by priests. The investigation did identify ninety-seven (97) priests against whom allegations of historical sexual abuse were made. However, after careful examination of each allegation and the relevant criminal statutes, prosecution ofthose allegations is barred by either the applicable statute of limitations or intervening death of the accused priest. Likewise, the wrongful actions or inactions of the Church and its personnel in connection with those depraved acts are not prosecutable because either the applicable statute of limitations has expired or the person who committed that act is deceased. This past legislative session the Florida legislature modified the statute of limitations (HB 199) that barred the prosecution of the accused priests, but that change constitutionally cannot retroactively allow prosecution of any alleged perpetrator who may still be alive. With these hurdles removed, any future, similar misconduct can be prosecuted.

Investigation and Findings

A. Summary of the Investigation Conducted

In August 2018, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a report that detailed seventy (70) years of clerical sexual abuse within that state. See Report of the 40th Statewide Investigative Grand Jury (2018) (hereinafter the “Pennsylvania Report”). Over three hundred (300) priests were listed by the grand jury who were accused of sexual misconduct and instances of cover up were described, several of which had ties to Florida. Id. Following the Pennsylvania Report, many jurisdictions followed suit and reported their findings within their states. Across the board, jurisdictions’ conclusions were consistent: the Church placed very little focus on victims and no substantial proactive policies for protecting children existed prior to 2002.

The Church in Florida is compromised of six Florida dioceses and the Archdiocese of Miami (collectively referred to as the “Florida Province”).1 After the launch of the investigation in October 2018, OSP created and placed a link on the Department of Legal Affairs’ website for victims to report information related to the investigation. The inquiry highlighted the prevalence of incidents of abuse and the response by the Church. The investigation focused on those priests accused and the viability of their prosecution. Over two hundred sixty (260) tips were submitted regarding clergy abuse. All tips were reviewed, and the individuals involved with reporting were interviewed when possible. During the informational phase, tips unrelated to the investigation of the Church were forwarded to law enforcement for response and/or follow-up investigation.

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