Port St. Lucie Police Investigate Abuse Claims against Priest

By Kathleen Chapman
Palm Beach Post [Florida]
May 10, 2002

A police detective is investigating a 17-year-old's allegations against a retired Port St. Lucie priest and will meet with prosecutors in a week to decide whether to charge 71-year-old Francis Maloney with lewd and lascivious behavior, police spokesman Chuck Johnson said Thursday.

The teen, who attends John Carroll Catholic High School in Fort Pierce, met with Detective John Holman for a two-hour interview Wednesday night, Johnson said. Police declined to say what he told them.

Last week, the teen told the pastor of his Port St. Lucie church, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, that Maloney walked around naked while the teen was doing chores at the priest's house after school. He also told the Rev. Edmund Szpieg that he found a letter from another priest to Maloney, advising Maloney on ways he could seduce the boy. When he returned to Maloney's house on Bridgeport Drive to confront him about the letter, he found Maloney in bed with another man, he told Szpieg.

The spokesman for the Diocese of Palm Beach said last week that Maloney was forced to retire from his former post as an associate pastor at St. Luke Catholic Church in Palm Springs about three years ago for having sex with a man.

Though Maloney was officially retired, he moved to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, where he celebrated Mass several times a week. He was removed from active ministry after the boy told his story to church authorities.

Maloney said last week that he had known the boy for about nine years and had been paying him to do chores around his house since October, when the boy said he needed money. Maloney was helping to pay the teen's private school tuition, Szpieg said.

Maloney told The Palm Beach Post that he regretted some things he said to the teen but never said anything sexual or made any advances toward him.

Educators at John Carroll High reported the alleged incident with the priest to the state abuse hot line May 1, after the boy told them his story. The hot line transferred the call to St. Lucie County's 911 dispatch line, where an operator advised the teen to go to the Port St. Lucie police, Johnson said.

The next day, the teen went public with his story, talking about the incident on a local TV newscast, but did not contact police. The Port St. Lucie police contacted the boy on Friday after getting calls from several reporters, Johnson said.

Initially believing that 911, police and the sheriff's office had not received any phone calls, police were frustrated about their lack of information last week. But since discovering that the call was placed to the abuse hot line and properly transferred to the local dispatch center, police are focusing on investigating the case, Johnson said.

It is common for 911 dispatchers to tell callers to contact police directly when they are in no immediate danger, Johnson said.


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