GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In 1975, Patrick Colville’s family moved from Virginia to Florida. He was 13 years old, the youngest of 12 children.
When his family got to Gainesville, they quickly joined St. Patrick’s Parish. Colville said it was there he met a young priest, Fr. John Dux.
“He started hanging out with me, buying me stuff, and taking me all over the place,” said Colville. “He became kind of entwined in my family. My mother never thought anything of it because he was a priest and priests could do no wrong in her eyes.”
In 1976, when Colville was 14, he said Dux took him to the state fair in Tampa. In the hotel room that night, Colville said, Dux raped him.
“I was screaming stop. I hid in the bathroom in the shower for the rest of the night,” said Colville. “At one point I asked, ‘Should you not be doing this? Aren’t you a man of God?’ He said, ‘My profession says I just can’t have sex with women.’”
The next day, Colville said, he stayed silent on the drive home. That foreshadowed the next 40 years of his life — Dux stayed in his family’s life and he stayed silent.
Colville said he wrote what happened that night on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope and gave it to his sister to hold on to. She kept it for decades.
“He stalked me afterward. Came to my house. Stayed entwined in my family to the point that he was the priest who officiated my brother’s wedding seven years later,” said Colville. “[My sister] held [the note] for 40 years, gave it back to me and said this has disturbed and ruined my life and religion.”
In 2019, Colville decided to tell his story.
Searching for answers
He first complained to a diocese near where he lived in New York. Then to attorney after attorney. Finally, he reached out to the Diocese of St. Augustine on his own.
“I thought the day that I spoke these words people were going to stand up and scream ‘oh, my God’ and you know it was going to be fire and brimstone, or whatever. I just thought somebody was going to do something,” said Colville. “But that is not the case. I waited two months for them to respond. They never did. They never even called me back.”
In April 2019, Colville’s attorneys sent a letter to the Bishop of St. Augustine Felipe Esteves detailing the assault. Eight months later, the Diocesan Review Board said it found the allegations against Dux to be credible.
Then in March 2020, the Diocese told its parishioners, the Diocese of Charleston where Dux was working as a priest and the Archdiocese for the Military where Dux served as a Navy Chaplain for more than 20 years, about the accusations. After the March 2020 announcement, another person came forward, saying Dux sexually assaulted him in the 1980s.
The details became public because of a statewide investigation into sex abuse in Florida’s churches. Diocese of St. Augustine records, released after the investigation was closed, showed officials knew of at least one other allegation of abuse against Dux before Colville came forward.
A Diocesan Review Board report in 2008 found Dux responsible for “clergy abuse” against a former altar boy at St. Madeline’s in High Springs, Florida. Board members determined Dux “groomed” the boy before starting a consensual relationship with him when he turned 18 years old. That 2008 board also recommended that Dux, who at the time was a priest within the Diocese of Charleston, have his religious faculties be removed.
Those faculties were removed in 2020 after Colville reported his abuse.
Colville said that when he asked Diocese officials whether anyone else reported allegations of misconduct before him, he was told no.
“They said emphatically, no. They said no, not ever has there been an allegation against him,” said Colville.
News4Jax asked the Diocese of St. Augustine if Dux got his faculties back after losing them in 2008 and why it told parishioners in a 2020 bulletin announcing the allegations against Dux that it “had no prior credible allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor against Fr. Dux.”
In response to our questions, the Diocese said it “does not publish statements if allegations of sexual abuse against minors are not found credible” and that “the original bulletin to parishioners was accurate.”
MORE: St. Augustine Diocese did not disclose priest was under investigation, AG’s office says
The Diocese of St. Augustine declined requests for an interview.
In an email, the director of communications said “we lost confidence in your ability to report accurately and without bias regarding the Diocese of St. Augustine. Your reports in December and February are riddled with errors and misstatements, and they were highly misleading in reporting events that occurred 30-40 years ago.”
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News4Jax asked the diocese to identify what it believed were errors, but rather than answer any questions or give specifics, the diocese did not identify any errors when we asked and instead said there were “many.”
News4Jax reached out multiple times to Dux and an attorney who spoke on his behalf in communications with the diocese, but News4Jax did not hear back.
In a letter to the diocese on March 18, 2020, his attorney told the bishop “as you know, Father Dux adamantly denies the accusation and ever having offended against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with a minor. He wishes to defend himself fully, especially in the face of this threat. He is in the process of obtaining civil legal counsel.”
Colville is now advocating for a bill in Florida that would expand the statute of limitations allowing people who were abused as children, and are now adults, to file civil lawsuits against their abusers and institutions that enabled abuse.
Florida Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Mike Gottlieb introduced identical bills in the house and senate, SB 946 and HB 23, but both bills failed to make it to a vote during the 2021 session. Critics of the bills said they did not open the window wide enough for people abused as late as the 70s and 80s to file civil claims.
“From my perspective, the bill is likely dead,” said Gottlieb. “The intention, of course, was to make it as inclusive as possible. Not to go back 75 years, and probably not to go back 50 years, but I think, you know, to open it up to maybe a 20-year-old or 25-year-old claim.”
Gottlieb said his intention is to write another bill exploring a “lookback” window for victims whose allegations of abuse are beyond the statute of limitations, which is expected to require an amendment to the Florida Constitution.
“Candidly, I don’t see that necessarily as a problem,” said Gottlieb. “If the Legislature passes the bill, and our intention is to revive these claims, then I think we’ll take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the bill that we pass does what it’s intended to do.”
A lot has changed for Colville since 1976.
He has a wife and kids. He is a grandfather. He said he no longer feels shame for his abuse. In recent years, he told his family – including his children – about being sexually assaulted as a child.
“I never wanted to tell them. I wish it never happened and I never had to go there. I truly wish that my childhood stayed innocent,” said Colville. “It is what I have tried to do for the last four years, make people aware and get some legislature passed to correct what has been done.”
News4Jax’s request to the diocese for an interview about priest abuse, and claimed errors in our reporting, remains open.
You can report known or suspected child abuse, neglect or abandonment to the 24/7 Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.
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