Alleged Abuse Victim Sues Priest, Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese

By Bill Kaczor
Associated Press, carried in Tallahassee Democrat [Pensacola FL]
May 24, 2005

PENSACOLA, Fla. - A 49-year-old man sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee and a now-retired priest Tuesday, saying that 34 years ago, when he was 15, the priest tried to molest him in a Georgia motel room.

The Circuit Court suit accuses Monsignor Richard Bowles of disrobing and demanding oral sex from Paul Tugwell, then 15, during a 1971 trip to Calloway Gardens at Pine Mountain, Ga. Tugwell said he refused Bowles' request.

The suit also alleges that diocese officials failed to report the matter to police when Tugwell's parents complained and transferred Bowles from one parish to another "thereby perpetuating his harm to others."

"I don't think there's a day that goes by that I haven't thought about it," Tugwell said at a news conference. "For a long time I pretty much pushed it away to not have to deal with it, but when the Boston cases came out I felt I needed to do something about it."

Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in 2002 after the disclosure that he had moved predatory priests to new church assignments without notifying parishioners. His archdiocese settled more than 550 lawsuits for $85 million. The Boston complaints led to similar allegations and thousands of lawsuits across the nation.

Tugwell's suit is believed to be the first of its kind in Pensacola. The state Revenue Department worker said money is not his main issue but that he hopes to draw attention to the issue and encourage other victims to seek help.

Tugwell's brother is a priest, but he said they no longer speak and have not discussed the sexual abuse allegation.

Church officials said that Bowles, in his mid-70s, resigned in 2003 after he admitted molesting another boy in 1969.

The diocese issued a written statement saying it "is always saddened when any form of abuse or hurt is caused by anyone in the ministry" and that it has tried "to always respond swiftly and forthrightly to victims of abuse by providing counseling and other pastoral services."

The church said Tugwell was offered, and accepted, counseling and other assistance when he came forward with his complaint against Bowles two years ago.

Bowles has no telephone listing in Pensacola and diocese spokeswoman Peggy DeKeyser said she did not know of his whereabouts.

Bishop John Ricard apologized in a 2003 letter to diocese members for failing to respond promptly to complaints of child abuse by priests. He wrote that six priests in the diocese, including Bowles, had been removed over a 28-year period because of sexual abuse allegations.


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