Diocese Joins in Settling Teen's Suit against Priest

By Mary McLachlin
Palm Beach Post [Florida]
May 8, 2004

The Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach has agreed to join in the settlement of a lawsuit filed by a Port St. Lucie youth alleging sexual misconduct by the Rev. Francis Maloney, a retired priest.

The total settlement is more than $150,000 - which Maloney's home insurance company agreed to pay - and less than $1 million, according to attorneys and court documents.

Lawyers would not disclose the amounts to be paid by the other defendants - the diocese, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Port St. Lucie and another retired priest, the Rev. Donald Whipple, and his religious order, the Holy Cross Fathers.

Maloney, 73, acknowledged having a long-term, "sporadic" sexual relationship with Whipple, who wrote sexually explicit letters suggesting ways to seduce the then-17-year-old high school student while he worked as a houseboy for Maloney.

"It would not be appropriate for us to comment," said diocese attorney C. Brooks Ricca. The five-county diocese, based in Palm Beach Gardens, has acknowledged paying more than $900,000 to settle seven previous abuse or harassment claims in its 20-year history.

Andrew Pelino, attorney for "John Doe Jr.," said the youth, now 18, plans to go to college and wanted to keep both the settlement and his identity private.

"This was a very stressful, long process for our client," Pelino said. "He just wants to put this behind him and lead his life without any further distractions."

Maloney's share of the settlement, $150,000, will be paid out of a $300,000 homeowner's liability insurance policy issued by Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co. Ricca said he didn't know whether the diocese's portion, which also covers St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, would be paid fully by its insurance carrier, Gallagher Bassett Services, or if diocesan money would be required to supplement it.

Diocesan officials couldn't be reached for comment, nor could the attorney for Whipple and the Holy Cross Fathers.

Maloney came to the diocese from Ohio in 1986, starting at St. Joseph Church in Stuart. He later served at St. Rita in Wellington, St. Juliana in West Palm Beach, Holy Family in Port St. Lucie and St. Luke in Lake Worth.

The teen, who attended John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce, sued in March 2003, alleging Maloney was naked in front of him, asked sex-related questions during counseling sessions and showed him pornographic letters and pictures. He also said he found Maloney in bed with another man.

Maloney denied the allegations and accused the youth of ransacking his bedroom to find the letters and nude pictures put away in dresser drawers. His lawyer, Gean Junginger of Fort Pierce, said Friday that Maloney denied any wrongdoing, "civil, criminal or ecclesiastical."

"Mr. Maloney regrets that correspondence, received by him through the U.S. mail from other people, was taken from his home without his knowledge, presence or consent," Junginger said. "He further regrets that these documents were used against the church by its enemies. In the hysteria that followed the false allegations against him, Mr. Maloney was attacked by the media, and public officials as well as church officials. Mr. Maloney forgives these people for these attacks and prays for the salvation of their souls."

Junginger said he believed a jury would have exonerated Maloney, but a trial would have been painful and embarrassing for the Catholic Church.

In court documents, Maloney said he did not approve of a priest having any kind of homosexual relationship, because of the vow of celibacy, and that homosexual acts were "of grave depravity, intrinsically disordered (and) contrary to natural law."

He said he had only one previous sexual liaison, with an anonymous man in Washington in 1995, while on vacation from his post at Holy Family. But after Whipple testified they had a 12-year relationship, Maloney amended his statement and said he also had a yearlong relationship with a man he identified only as "Tony" and had sexual relations with two unidentified women.

Then-Bishop J. Keith Symons sent him to St. Luke's Institute in Silver Spring, Md., for six months of therapy in 1995. Maloney said he continued to receive outpatient treatment from a Stuart counselor until 2000.

Symons and his successor, Bishop Anthony O'Connell, later resigned after admitting past sexual misconduct.

Maloney was forced to retire in 2000 by the Rev. James Murtagh, then vicar general, after an allegation of a sexual relationship with another man while he was at St. Luke. He became a volunteer priest at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, where the teen and his mother were active in church ministries. When the boy complained to the diocese in 2002, Murtagh stripped Maloney of all priestly faculties.


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