WFTS-TV [Tampa Bay FL]
April 29, 2021
By Kylie McGivern
Legislation could remove statute of limitations for civil suits
[Photo above: Father John Dux is pictured on the left, he is a retired priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine. Photo was taken Dec. 5, 1979]
The state’s two-year investigation into allegations Catholic priests sexually abused Florida children resulted in a blistering report, naming 97 Catholic priests meeting the state’s criteria for prosecution.
Not a single one will stand trial.
The priests were dead, had already been prosecuted, or in most cases — too many years had passed. But the story doesn’t end there.
Over the past five months, I-Team Investigator Kylie McGivern poured over hundreds of pages of records from the state, talked with prosecutors, lawmakers and clergy sexual abuse survivors, and pressed a diocese in Florida about what was done — and when.
One of the victims was a 14-year-old boy at the time of his alleged abuse in Tampa, by a priest named in the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution’s report.
Patrick Colville, 59, shared his story for the first time, speaking for survivors, warning parents and pushing lawmakers to create a “look back window” allowing civil lawsuits to move forward, even though the criminal statute of limitations had expired.
The I-Team spoke with Colville from New York, where he now lives after spending many of his childhood years in Gainesville.
The man Colville said abused him was a priest at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Gainesville. The assault happened in 1976, he said.
“I wrote a story about it,” Colville said. “I called it ‘Preyed Upon.’”
Reading from the cover page, Colville said, “This is a true story of my childhood, about a time when people were more trusting and a horrifying tale of abuse.”
Colville, one of 12 children, said he sent the pages to one of his sisters decades ago.
“She’s the only person who knew it and she was the keeper of my secret,” Colville said.
His secret, buried in darkness, is now being brought into the light.
“I am over the embarrassment and the shame of all this and I don’t really care who knows,” Colville told the I-Team.
Colville described himself as once being a “happy-go-lucky kid” who rode his bike everywhere after winning a 10-speed bicycle selling the most tickets at Boy Scouts.
“I got into the church, I was an altar boy, my mother and father were very religious,” Colville said. “Most of my brothers were altar boys and this guy, this priest, started showing me attention and I thought it was cool that an older guy wanted to hang out and buy me crap and take me places. And he worked his way into my family and my mother believed anything a priest would say. Anything.”
Colville recalled Father John Dux asking his parents if he could take him to the state fair in Tampa. They agreed.
“’You can take him anywhere you want,’” he recalled his mother saying. “I mean it was a priest. What better place could you be than with a priest?”
Colville said he and Dux went to the fair and then back to a hotel room.
“He was giving me drugs and alcohol … I turned around one second and he was standing there naked,” Colville said. “He performed oral sex on me, tried to hold me down and make me perform oral sex on him.”
The next morning, Colville said he rode in the car with Dux for two hours back to Gainesville.
“I changed as a human being,” said Patrick Colville.
Colville’s story, poured onto nine typed pages, is one he later shared with his wife of 35 years and recently, his three children — then the church.
When asked what brought him to this moment, sharing his story publicly, Colville said it was during a ceremony at a church that he realized he had to speak up.
“At my grandson’s baptism, and the priest was holding my grandson up and it freaked me out,” he said. “I certainly couldn’t let anything happen to my grandkids. So I decided it was time to do something about it.”
Colville said he first went to a church and told a priest everything.
“His advice to me was — forget it. Go get counseling,” Colville said.
In 2019, Colville hired an attorney. Through his attorney, Colville demanded the Diocese of St. Augustine pay $500,00 for the damages he’d suffered.
Colville said the diocese offered him $20,000 and then $35,000 to settle, but would have required “a complete release of all including Fr. Dux,” according to an email response the diocese sent Colville’s then-attorney.
“I had a few expletives to them and said that’s not what this is about,” Colville said.
Colville said this isn’t about money.
“It was all about getting this priest removed from the priesthood, getting him off the altar,” Colville said. “Every step of the way, every second of the way, has been nothing but roadblocks.”
The Diocese of St. Augustine told the I-Team it, “does not share details of whether compensation has been made or not, and will not publicly discuss details of any care to protect the identity and reputation of the victim.”
THE STATE INVESTIGATES
Colville’s communication with the diocese through his attorney is documented in the more than 200 pages of records the I-Team obtained from the Office of Statewide Prosecution on Father John Dux.
Dux was part of a two-year investigation Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox conducted into allegations Catholic priests sexually abused Florida children.
“The findings were disgusting, they were horrifying, I mean to think that they — the biggest word probably is ‘violation.’ Because you’re talking about people who were people of faith, people who believed in the church, people who believed in the collar that was on that priest’s neck and believed they could trust it,” Cox said, speaking about the overall investigation.
Cox told the I-Team his big takeaway from the investigation was the Church being unable to police itself.
You can read the full report below
Reviewing documents the diocese turned over to the state, the I-Team discovered Patrick was not the first victim to contact the diocese about Dux.
A “confidential report” from 2008, 11 years before Colville came forward, detailed “allegations of sexual abuse to a minor” in High Springs, where Dux served the parish after leaving Gainesville.
According to the report, the Diocesan Review Board concluded the boy “has been a victim of clergy abuse.”
It wasn’t until March 2020, after Colville came forward and the review board found his allegation to be credible, that Bishop Felipe J. Estévez removed Dux’s priestly faculties, prohibiting him from presenting himself as a priest, wearing clerical attire and ministering.
Estévez notified the Diocese of Charleston, where Dux lives, and the Archdiocese for Military-Services USA, where he was a chaplain.
The public statement prompted another man to contact the victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese in St. Augustine, stating that he was abused by Dux at St. Madeleine Sophie in High Springs in 1980-1982.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
The statewide prosecutor said his office investigated hundreds of priests.
“We looked into hundreds of priests where there had been some sort of allegations, there were an awful lot of people who we investigated and looked into quite a bit who couldn’t reach the high standard we had, which was whether or not there could be a criminal prosecution,” Cox said.
That is, if the priest were not deceased, had not been previously prosecuted, or like in Dux’s case, if the prosecution was not barred by the statute of limitations.
“That was really frustrating,” Cox said. “Especially a crime against children.”
According to Child USA, a national think tank for child protection, a dozen states and Washington D.C. have established “look back windows” — a period of time allowing people to file civil suits against their alleged abusers and the institutions where they worked, no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.
Last year, lawmakers tried to create a look back window in Florida, it was a legislation Colville supported and pushed for. Then this session, there was a bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for certain sexual offenses. That being said, under the proposed legislation, Colville’s alleged abuse still would have occurred too long ago for it to be included.
Both efforts failed.
State Senator Lauren Book, D-Plantation, a survivor of child sexual abuse, said fellow survivors would still have to meet the same burden of proof if Florida opened up a look back window.
“But it would give them that opportunity to feel empowered, to use their voices and say, ’This happened to me, this is the person who did it, you’re not going to control my destiny any longer, I’m taking back my power.’ And I think that’s one of the most important things that we can do,” Book said.
State Representative Michael Gottlieb, D-Sunrise, told the I-Team he’s committed to filing a new bill next session.
“The statute of limitations on the civil offense has run. Meaning you can’t sue this institution or this offender. So because that claim is dead, we would have to amend the constitution of the state of Florida to revive that claim. And that’s aggressive, but that’s what these survivors deserve. They deserve to have their day in court,” Gottlieb said.
In Gainesville, Colville’s attorney Bill Galione said he’s on standby.
“He’s gotten to this point in his life where he has the wherewithal to confront this, deal with it, try to enforce rights, and hold the other side accountable. He’s there now. But the law is not there with him now. And I’d like to see the law line up alongside these folks to be with them when they need it,” Galione said.
The I-Team attempted to contact Dux through the Diocese of St. Augustine. A spokesperson said she had not heard anything from Dux and did not expect to. The I-Team then called and left a message for Dux and mailed a letter to give him every opportunity to respond to the allegations.
The I-Team has yet to hear back.
A letter the I-Team obtained through the Office of Statewide Prosecution, from Canon Law Professionals to the Diocese of St. Augustine dated last year, said, “Father Dux adamantly denies the accusation” and that he wanted to fully defend himself.
The I-Team asked Colville what he would say today to his 14-year-old self.
“Run. Run, get the hell out of there. I would have been better off running down the street by myself. Tell someone. It’s destroyed me, keeping it a secret,” Colville said.
The diocese told the I-Team “every allegation of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults is always shared with the appropriate civil authorities.”
For several weeks, the I-Team asked the Diocese of St. Augustine for an interview — in-person or on Zoom — during a phone call with a spokesperson for the diocese and in multiple emails. The diocese said it provided all of the information it could over the phone and via email and after refusing multiple interview requests, they sent the I-Team a recorded statement.
Father Remek Blaszkowski, the Promoter of Justice for the Diocese of St. Augustine, said in part, “To the victim-survivors and their families, I am hopeful that you will be receptive to receive our apology. There are no words that can undo what has happened to you.”
The full statement is included below.
As Colville turns the pages of his life, his story, he’s grateful he’s here to tell it himself.
“If only one other person reads this and was able to be the wiser for it and because of that their child was kept from similar compromising situations, it will have been worth all of it. I write all of this for my children and yours,” Colville said, reading more of the story he wrote of this time in his life. “I didn’t think I was going to be alive to read this.”
Colville said, somehow he made it and “ended up with an amazing family.”
BELOW IS A TIMELINE OF EVENTS:
Below are statements from the Diocese of St. Augustine:
The Diocese of St. Augustine encompasses 17 counties of Northeast and North Central Florida. The diocese serves more than 150,000 registered Catholics in 67 parishes, missions and chapels.
The process when the diocese receives an allegation:
- Once an allegation is received, it is shared with the bishop, the Diocesan Review Board and a few other diocesan officials.
- Every allegation of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults is always shared with the appropriate civil authorities.
- If civil authorities determine they are not going pursue the case for whatever legal reason, then the diocese begins its own canonical investigation.
- The investigation is very detailed and involves speaking with the victim – with provided witnesses – and the accused.
- The findings of the initial canonical investigation are shared with the Diocesan Review Board, which provides a recommendation to the bishop in determining if the allegationis credible or not.
- If the allegation is credible according to the law of the church, the case is forwarded to the Holy See in Rome.
- At this point, the bishop also provides notices to the faithful in the diocese. The reason is to invite potential victims to come forward to make a report.
Statement from Father Remek Blaszkowski, J.C.D., Promoter of Justice for the Diocese of St. Augustine:
On the outcome of the investigation and status of Father John Dux:
“After reviewing the case, the Holy See took into consideration the age of Father Dux, his poor health, and the fact that the statutes of limitations have passed to initiate a canonical trial. The church’s law in this regard is similar to our civil law in the United States. That being said, the Holy See did support Bishop Estevez’s decision to remove the priestly faculties of Father Dux, which prevents him from exercising his priestly ministry, and prohibits him from presenting himself as a priest and from wearing his clerical attire.”
On the Office of Statewide Prosecution’s report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church:
“As I reflect, I’m reminded about the words of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke, ‘For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible – and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.’ As we address the issues of sexual abuse of minors, we all experience this very painful process of discovering what was hidden, sinful, and devastating, now coming into light. Because only when we live in the light, we can live in truth and freedom. Therefore, the church invites all victim-survivors to come forward to share what has happened to them. This is the only way we can achieve healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and justice.”
Message to victims/survivors:
“To the victim-survivors and their families, I am hopeful that you will be receptive to receive our apology. There are no words that can undo what has happened to you. Secondly, I want you to know that the church will listen to you and provide pastoral care and assistance as needed. And finally, I want the community to be aware that the church has taken significant and meaningful steps over the last two decades to ensure the safety and well-being of every person entrusted to our pastoral care.”
The attorney general’s hotline, where you can report sex abuse, is 1-866-966-7226. Citizen services will direct you to the most appropriate person.