Volusia Man Alleges an Orlando Priest Abused Him

By Joe Ruble
May 12, 2010

A Volusia County man is suing the Catholic Church in Orlando and a former priest for abuse he claims happened in the late 1980's.

34-year-old Jason Bell claims in his lawsuit that then-priest Richard Emerson had grabbed his genitals while he was an eleven-year-old attending Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Orlando.

Bell says he was too ashamed to talk about it for years.

"It's something that, you know, you're going through puberty. I kept it deep down inside."

Until he was almost 30 years old and one day he said he told his mother about it.

"I just knew that if I didn't let it out, it would probably destroy me. She's the closest to me so I told her."

Bell said he has two children now, a son and daughter, and for their welfare and for other children, he said he decided to sue.

He admits the incident changed him. "It makes me not want to trust people," he told reporters outside the Orange County Courthouse.

He also said that the church's practice of moving priests around when allegations come up is not solving the problem.

The Catholic Diocese of Orlando said it cooperated with police when Emerson was being accused of abusing children in 2004 in Gary, Indiana.

Emerson served in Orlando from 1987 to 1991, according to the church.

"We trust the alleged victim's attorney will allow us to meet with the alleged victim to discuss his situation. We pray for all those involved in this situation," the Diocese said in a statement issued shortly before a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

The lawsuit is not asking for a specific amount of damages.

Bell's attorney, Joseph Saunders of Pinellas Park, also plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of a minor who alleges sexual abuse by Father Patrick Sheedy of Ocala.

The diocese calls that claim "totally false" and Sheedy stood before reporters to say he would clear his name.

"I emphatically deny any allegation of any misconduct involving any minor anywhere," said Father Sheedy.


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