Priest Denies Sex Abuse Claims

By Adam Longo
13 News
May 13, 2010

The Orlando Catholic Diocese is sticking up for one its priests, who is being accused of sexual misconduct.

However, the allegations haven't even been filed in court.

Despite that, the church is putting the priest front and center to say he hadn't done anything wrong.

The Orlando Diocese asked Pinellas County lawyer Joseph Saunders to hold off on filing the suit against Pastor Patrick Sheedy, from the Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, in Ocala, because church leaders didn't believe the allegations.

Saunders told News 13 he agreed to hold off on filing the lawsuit.

But an hour before Saunders' scheduled press conference, the Diocese called an impromptu press conference to rail against Saunders and the "malicious" lawsuit that never got filed.

"I emphatically deny any allegations of any misconduct involving any minor anywhere," Sheedy said. "I will do whatever it takes to clear my good name."

"The Diocese have no prior knowledge of any sexual abuse to a minor by Father Sheedy and it never failed to disclose such information," said Carol Brinati, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Orlando.

The Diocese is threatening legal action against Saunders and called his ethics into question.

Meanwhile, Saunders is taking the high road.

"They requested I not say anything more until they've had a chance to look into it more," Saunders said. "So I agreed to let them do that. So I'm not going to say any more about that."

Saunders did, though, file one lawsuit on behalf of Jason Bell, a Volusia County painter.

Bell, 34, claims he was sexually abused by a former Orlando priest named Richard Emerson.

Bell met Emerson at St. Charles Borromeo Church in College Park. He said the abuse lasted from the time he was 11 through his mid teens, and it happened everywhere.

"A lot of times at the church," Bell said. "I've been to his house many times. It was my whole childhood so many places."

The lawsuit seeks financial damages from the Orlando Diocese, alleging "a deliberate fraudulent effort to conceal Emerson's conduct."

Emerson moved away from Orlando in 1991 and was transferred to a parish in Gary, Ind.

These aren't the first allegations that have come up against him.

He's been defrocked, basically kicked out of the Catholic Church, but yet he's never faced any criminal charges.

No one seems to know where he is now.

Saunders couldn't locate Emerson to serve him with the suit.

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