Priest Accused in Sex Case Reinstated to Parish
By April Witt
Parishioners at St. Coleman Catholic Church hailed the archbishop for deciding to let the lawsuit go to trial and be resolved in public rather than write the priest's accuser a big -- and secret -- settlement check.
"I am proud, as a member of the Catholic Church and of St. Coleman parish, that the archbishop has the courage to trust the judicial system to do its job," said parishioner Tim Bailey, a lawyer. "I love it. I absolutely love it."
Foudy will likely be back at St. Coleman -- where many parishioners have been demanding his return -- within a few days, said Mary Ross Agosta, director of the archdiocese's communication department.
"I can honestly say Father Foudy is appreciative for the support of the archdiocese and the archbishop, as well as his parishioners," said Douglas McIntosh, Foudy's lawyer.
After attempting for three months to settle out of court with the priest's accuser, 54-year-old Alinka Pawlowska of Lighthouse Point, the archdiocese abruptly reversed itself Tuesday with this announcement: "The archdiocese of Miami has completed its internal investigation in regard to the Jane Doe vs. Fr. Thomas Foudy allegations. The archbishop has decided to vigorously defend the case through trial. The archbishop will reassign Fr. Foudy to St. Coleman parish."
Michael A. Bernstein, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, declined to comment Tuesday on the archbishop's surprise decision.
Pawlowska, whose married name is Alinka Pawlowska Sullivan, sued Foudy and the archdiocese in December, alleging that she had gone to her then-pastor for counseling and that he took advantage of her problems to entice her to begin a sexual relationship. The lawsuit was filed anonymously, with the woman identifying herself in court documents only as "Jane Doe." Several sources have identified Pawlowska as Jane Doe.
Foudy resigned as pastor of St. Coleman as a result of the lawsuit. He has made no public comment on the specifics of the case, but church officials say he denied the allegations "as contained in the complaint." They have declined to say whether the priest denies he had sex with the woman.
Tuesday's news pleased many St. Coleman parishioners, who have been calling for Foudy's return for weeks, saying they either don't believe the allegations against him or they want the priest back even if he had sex with Pawlowska.
"I'm delighted," said St. Coleman parishioner Harry Durkin, 64, of Fort Lauderdale, after hearing the archbishop's decision to fight the lawsuit. Foudy "is entitled, if not obligated, to defend himself."
Favalora's decisions not to settle the case and to return Foudy to St. Coleman may indicate the Catholic Church is getting wiser about handling sex allegations against priests and not automatically settling all cases, Notre Dame Law Professor Patrick Schiltz said Tuesday.
In the past, Catholic dioceses have routinely settled such cases to avoid publicity, and shuffled priests from parish to parish, said Schiltz, who has defended more than 500 cases of clergy sexual misconduct in a dozen denominations and more than 40 states.
More recently, the Catholic Church has been ousting most erring priests, giving those who have consenting sex with adults the same swift punishment as those who sexually abuse children or troubled adults, Schiltz said.
"While it's difficult to generalize from one case, what you might be seeing here is what I hope churches are getting to -- moving from one rigid approach to all cases to, instead, treating each case individually," Schiltz said. "A bishop could make a decision that a priest had sinned, but had not committed clergy sexual abuse, for instance. Every parish in the world is staffed by a priest who has sinned, because all humans sin."
Bailey, the St. Coleman parishioner, said he would always consider Foudy his friend, but would have a tough time accepting him as his pastor if Foudy eventually testified that he had consenting sex with Pawlowska.
Agosta, the archdiocese spokeswoman, said that the lawsuit, no matter its outcome, requires Catholics to put their faith in action.
"This is a time, as Christians and Catholics, to stand up and be able to exhibit what we have been taught," Agosta said. "And that is to listen, to understand, to love and, if necessary, to forgive."
Earlier, in one of the stranger aspects of the case, Walter Shaw, a convicted burglar who is now a would-be Hollywood producer, said Foudy's accuser had agreed to let him sell the rights to her story to the movies. On Tuesday, Shaw's attorney, James Lewis of Fort Lauderdale, indicated that Shaw is happy with the turn of events.
Said Lewis: "Nothing like a good trial to sell a movie."
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