Accused Predator Priest Arrested in Venice Following Multiple Sexual Abuse Allegations

Port Charlotte priest was recently arrested in Florida after being placed on administrative leave one year ago with the Diocese of Venice. Father Leo Patrick Riley, 68, worked in at least 16 parishes in his home Diocese in Dubuque, Iowa, and in 2002, when predator priests began to be under great scrutiny, he moved to Florida and later began working in the Venice diocese. Floridians might have learned this much sooner, but Venice Bishop Frank Dewane is one of several US bishops who refuse to disclose the names of the child molesting clerics in his jurisdiction.

According to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Fr. Riley was arrested on April 24 and faces five capital sexual battery charges that allegedly took place in the 1980s when Riley was a priest in Dubuque, Iowa.

In 2014, Fr. Leo Riley of the Dubuque Archdiocese was accused of sexually abusing a boy about a decade earlier.

In 2015, a church panel deemed the victim’s report “not manifestly false or frivolous,” and he filed a lawsuit.

Only then did Dubuque Archbishop Jackels: 

• tell parishioners at Fr. Riley’s most recent church about the allegation

• temporarily place the priest on administrative leave 

• open a preliminary investigation into the matter

Later that same year, Jackels announced that:

 • his investigation did NOT find the accusation to be true

• Fr. Riley would be put back on the job at St. Peter the Apostle in Naples.

In 2023, two more Iowa victims came forward, and again, Fr. Riley was put on leave as a priest at the San Antonio Catholic Church in Port Charlotte. A total of four victims came forward claiming Riley had sexually abused them from 1984-1986, when they were school-aged boys, all serving as altar boys of Resurrection Parish.

The Significance of Out-of-State Transfers

Why is this significant? Because of the predator priest’s odd out-of-state transfer. Diocesan priests are like professional athletes. They don’t—indeed, they can’t—decide to pick up and start working in another diocese (like a ball player can’t). Because of the predator priest’s troubling string of transfers in Iowa, the fact that Fr. Riley had sixteen assignments in his home archdiocese should have set off alarm bells across the church hierarchy. If that doesn’t smell like a cover-up, I don’t know what does. Many states are guilty of this, including Louisiana. There’s a pattern of clerics from abroad getting shipped in, committing heinous deeds, and then conveniently disappearing. It’s a magic trick that wouldn’t look out of place at a Vegas show, minus the glitter and glamour.

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