Why Did Victim Wait 41 Years before Coming Forward?

By Sam Cook
The News-Press
May 2, 2010

“I don’t want to discuss this stuff with my mother listening,’’ he says from their apartment in Tylertown, Miss.

“This stuff’’ is the bombshell Wilkins’ Miami attorney Jessica Arbour dropped in Fort Myers on Thursday — sexual-abuse allegations against the late Father Thomas Anglim, a priest beyond reproach at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church for 38 years.

Wilkins couldn’t create more consternation if he accused the pope.

In a lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of Miami, which controlled St. Xavier before 1984, and the Diocese of Venice, Wilkins, who is seeking at least $15,000, says the dioceses concealed the sexual abuse and failed to warn Wilkins that Anglim was a sexual predator.

Wilkins, 56, a seventh-grader at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in 1967, says in the lawsuit that during after-school tutoring Anglim sexually abused him seven to 10 times, as well as other boys. No one else has come forward.

Anglim’s former congregants say blasphemy.

“Oh, no, no, no, no!’’ says Betty Galvano, 74, of Fort Myers and a parishioner for 14 years. “This has got to be the biggest fabrication in the world.’’

Father Bob Browning, rector emeritus at St. Hilary’s Episcopal Church in Fort Myers, was Anglim’s friend for 44 years.

“I would vouch for his integrity,’’ says Browning, 79, via e-mail. “I cannot believe Tom is guilty.’’

Steve Scott, who attended church from 1969 to 1981 at St. Xavier, was an altar boy for Anglim.

“There is no way. The charges are ridiculous,’’ says Scott, 46, of east Fort Myers.

“That’s not Father Anglim. He was like a big brother to everybody. The guy just wants money.’’

Wilkins says he brought the charges to the Diocese of Venice in 2008, but when it didn’t punish Anglim, he hired Arbour.

Why did he wait 41 years to complain?

“My mother (Elsie Isley) asked me the same thing,’’ Wilkins says. “You don’t go around telling something like that. Especially if you’re a teenager.

“It’s embarrassing.’’

In a letter to Wilkins from the chancellor of the Diocese of Venice dated Nov. 26, 2008, it says the investigation regarding his allegation against Anglim was complete. Bishop Frank Dewane received the recommendation of the review board, considered the results and found the allegation needed further examination.

“The diocese covered up things,’’ Wilkins says. “I don’t like dioceses. Any of them. The diocese would take the eyeball out of your eye if they needed one.’’

Attorney Arbour, who has eight years of experience working clergy sexual abuse cases, says her client should be lauded for “telling a difficult truth,’’ not called a liar by the Diocese of Venice.

“There was a pattern of practice of protecting priests,’’ she says about Anglim serving six parishes. “There were red flags during his entire ministry.’’

Bob Reddy, spokesman for the Diocese of Venice, says Anglim’s personnel file has no wrongdoing.

“There are no accusations in his file — not even a Post-it,’’ Reddy says.

Reddy says the case remains open.

“Father Anglim’s inability to communicate made the investigation very difficult,’’ he says.

One can imagine Anglim’s chagrin.

Retired and living in Ireland two years ago, the popular pastor could not defend himself against molestation charges.

Anglim, who died in January at age 81, was incapacitated and couldn’t speak to investigators.

He had several strokes and lived with Alzheimer’s since 2006, Reddy says.

Galvano, who accompanied Anglim on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, says the charges are baseless.

“Father Anglim is an absolute saint,’’ she says. “There is no way in the whole wide world it could be. It just couldn’t be.’’

After talking with Wilkins on Saturday — who didn’t sound believable — and no other accusers, I agree.



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