[Media Statement] Catholic Officials in St. Augustine Withheld Information from Florida AG
By Gene Rosenquest, Zach Hiner
SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)
February 05, 2021
When Florida’s Office of Statewide Prosecution released their report into clergy sexual abuse, we noted that investigations into the institutional Catholic Church routinely found that officials “actively worked to prevent parents and parishioners from learning about abusers.” A news article out of Jacksonville shockingly shows that abusers were being hidden even while the attorney general was actively investigating cases of cover-up.
According to the media report, Catholic officials in the Diocese of St. Augustine did not disclose allegations against several priests, including Fr. John Dux and Fr. D. Terrence Morgan. The latter was under investigation for “lewd and lascivious acts” at the time the state investigation was ongoing. We find it very concerning that Church leaders were not fully transparent with investigators in Florida, although we are not surprised. In our experience, Catholic officials have lied for decades about the extent of clergy abuse and cover-ups to parents and parishioners, why should state investigators be treated any differently?
Following the completion of their investigation, the Florida report stated that Church leaders throughout the state had “enabled sexual abuse of minors in Florida by its priests and prevented or obstructed discovery, investigation, and prosecution of such crimes.” To us, this news out of St. Augustine demonstrates that those same behaviors are still occurring.
This situation is a clear example as to why investigations that do not involve search warrants, subpoena power, and the ability to compel testimony under oath will never be able to reveal the full truth as it relates to Catholic crimes, current and historic. We believe that Florida’s Office of Statewide Prosecution should revisit these dioceses armed with tools that will root out those who lie and obfuscate. New laws in the state will apparently allow prosecution of such crimes.
Absent such action, we are afraid that the Florida report is largely useless and irrelevant, telling us only what we already knew but offering no help in changing institutional behavior.