Lawsuit Claims Orlando Diocese Concealed Pedophile Priest

Associated Press
April 26, 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A former altar boy has sued the Catholic Diocese of Orlando for negligence, alleging that church leaders knowingly concealed a sexually abusive priest who molested him.

The incidents date back to the 1970s when the accuser, now in his mid-40s and identified in court papers as John Doe No. 10, was a parishioner of Resurrection Church of Christ in Winter Garden, according to a lawsuit filed in February in an Orlando circuit court.

According to a copy of the lawsuit, which The Associated Press received from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the man claims church leaders knew Jose Mena was abusing young parishioners while he was a priest and transferred him to keep others from finding out.

The group held a news conference in Orlando on Friday to spotlight the case.

The lawsuit is seeking more than $5 million in damages, saying the man has experienced "severe psychological injuries, including but not limited to loss of faith, guilt, relationship problems, flashbacks, anxiety, mood swings and the loss of enjoyment of life."

Carol Brinati, a diocese spokeswoman, denied the lawsuit's claim that church officials knew Mena was abusing boys while serving in two Orlando-area parishes in the 1960s and 1970s.

The diocese learned of inappropriate contact by Mena about six years ago, and he was removed from his post, Brinati said Saturday. She said church leaders did not know Mena's current whereabouts.

"We respect this person's claim," she said. She added that the diocese was trying to work with the man's attorney, Jeffrey Herman, to interview him and offer counseling.

She said that no meeting had been scheduled.

Herman did not respond to an e-mail sent on Saturday afternoon.

Brinati said it is the diocese's policy to interview victims of sexual abuse by priests then refer the case to law enforcement if necessary.

The lawsuit alleges church policy kept secret records on abusive priests. The practice kept the man and his parents from preventing Mena's abuse, the lawsuit claims.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the man attended Friday's conference, which was convened by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"I kept it inside," the man told reporters. "I didn't want to embarrass my family."

He revealed the abuse to his mother after the death of his father, he said, and added that he continues to try to recover from the abuse.

"I'm trying to get my faith back," he said.


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