New Abuse Accusation Surfaces against Priest Pensacola Pastor Served in Duval

By Steve Patterson
Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, FL)
September 12, 2003

A Catholic priest formerly from Jacksonville is facing a second accusation that he molested a minor, a church official in Pensacola said yesterday.

Monsignor Richard Bowles, 74, resigned last month as pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church in Pensacola after admitting he molested a boy in 1969. The second accusation was lodged this week by someone who claimed to have been victimized in 1971, said Monsignor Michael Mooney, a spokesman for the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese.

That person said the incident happened while Bowles was on an out-of-state trip, Mooney said.

The diocese has started an investigation, but Mooney said Bowles was traveling this week and church officials weren't able to contact him. He said Bowles had been prohibited from taking part in ministry or acting as a priest after admitting the first incident.

Church officials have not released details of either account.

Bowles, who was raised in Jacksonville, was the administrator of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Arlington during the time of the first incident. He previously served at a parish in Sanford in Seminole County, then at Assumption Catholic Church on the Southside, and taught at Bishop Kenny High School in 1966, said Kathleen Bagg-Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of St. Augustine.

Catholic directories list him as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pensacola in the early 1970s.

Mooney said personnel records show 'no indication whatsoever' that church officials suspected any misconduct until this year. 'He was a very well-respected priest,' Mooney said.

The Pensacola News-Journal reported that a Jacksonville psychiatrist who examined Bowles decades ago contacted Pensacola church officials in March. Mooney would not confirm that account.

The widow of Bowles' brother said yesterday that his family and friends have been traumatized by recent events. She also defended Bowles as a loving, good-hearted man.

'He's given his life to the Lord,' said Mary Ann Bowles. 'He's just been the most wonderful man. That situation that happened was many years ago.'

She said Bowles had been planning to retire and had earned respect through a long career in ministry. She said friends and family were anguished that events from long ago were damaging his reputation. 'I've had so many phone calls. People are just distraught,' she said.


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