Longtime St. Francis Xavier Priest Named in Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

By Pat Gillespie
April 29, 2010

Father Thomas Anglim, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church reads a letter sent to him by Mother Theresa in 1997. A Mississippi man who went to St. Francis Xavier parish school in the 1960s, alleges in a lawsuit Anglim sexually abused him at the school while it was operated by the Archdiocese of Miami. Anglim died in January in Ireland. He was 81.

Longtime St. Francis Xavier priest the Rev. Thomas Anglim has been named in a sexual abuse lawsuit in Miami.

Jimmy Wilkins, a Mississippi man who went to St. Francis Xavier parish school in the 1960s, alleges in a lawsuit Anglim sexually abused him at the school while it was operated by the Archdiocese of Miami. The school is now owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Venice.

Anglim retired from the church in 2004 after 38 years. He was pastor at St. Francis from 1966 and he bears the name for the Father Anglim Academy, a school that assists students who have learning challenges.

Anglim died in January in Ireland. He was 81.

According to a news release by Wilkins’ attorney, Jessica Arbour of Miami, Anglim supervised and worked with at least two other priests who have been accused of sexually abusing children — Anthony Mercieca and Jean Ronald Joseph.

In 2009, allegations against Joseph by a 31-year-old man were made public by the Diocese of Venice through a letter from the Most. Rev. Frank J. Dewane, the diocese’s bishop. Joseph denied the abuse, which was alleged to have happened at St. Francis Xavier about 15 years ago.

According to news reports, Mercieca admitted to abusing former Florida Republican congressman Mark Foley, who resigned in 2006 amid questions regarding sexually explicit Internet messages he allegedly sent to a teenage male congressional page.

Arbour has scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference outside the church. She said she will call on Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Venice Bishop Frank Dewane to publicly release the names and whereabouts of all priests accused of sexual abuse of children in the their dioceses.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, names the Archdiocese of Miami, Diocese of Venice as well as Bishop Frank Dewane as defendants in the documents, which seek more than $15,000 in damages.

Wilkins attended the school for his seventh grade in 1967 and 1968. According to the lawsuit, Wilkins previously attended public school, but his mother decided Wilkins should have a positive spiritual and educational experience of a Catholic school.

Anglim’s sister, Sister Agnes Anglim, was Wilkins’ teacher.

“Because he was not Catholic, Jimmy often struggled with the Catholic theology,” the lawsuit states. “Fr. Anglim offered to help Jimmy with his studies after school. Through this religious teaching and instruction, Fr. Anglim began to sexually abuse Jimmy.”

The lawsuit alleges Anglim committed several sexual acts on Wilkins, including exposing himself and forcing Wilkins to perform sexual acts.

“Sexual contact occurred on approximately 7-10 occasions,” the lawsuit states. “Each time, Fr. Anglim assured Jimmy that it was part of the lesson, that what he was doing was right and promised to give Jimmy all the help he needed with his religious studies so long as he complied.”

Wilkins alleges Anglim sexually abused other boys and the archdiocese knew or should have known Anglim was a sexual predator before he sexually abused Wilkins. Wilkins alleges the archdiocese should have stopped Anglim and reported to law enforcement, but the diocese “actively took steps to conceal the abuse.”

The lawsuit cites a 1962 confidential policy document that orders any investigation of abuse to be held to the “strictest” secrecy. The lawsuit states the National Catholic Conference of Bishops later modified the policy to destroy, conceal or hide incriminating documents if a risk was perceived such documents could be found through civil or criminal proceedings.

The lawsuit alleges incriminating documents related to Anglim — including the alleged abuse against Wilkins — were destroyed, lost, concealed or hidden based on the policy.



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