JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – State investigators have named 97 priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children within Florida’s Catholic churches.
While prosecutors found no evidence of current or ongoing unreported sexual abuse by a priest, the Office of Statewide Prosecution said it did uncover “historical acts by the church and its personnel that enabled sexual abuse of minors in Florida.”
Of the 97 the investigators deemed credibly accused, five of those cases happened within the Diocese of St. Augustine: Father John Dux, Richard Bowles, William Malone, Thomas McNamara and William Weinheimer. All of the cases were previously reported in the media following statements from the Diocese of St. Augustine or after lawsuits were filed. Dux and Weinheimer are the only two still living.
In March 2020, the Diocese of St. Augustine released a statement on Father Malone. Father Malone was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 1976. The diocese didn’t release a statement until close to a year after receiving the complaint from an attorney representing the victim.
According to the statement released by the Diocese of St. Augustine, the Diocesan Review Board reviewed the claim and “determined there was a semblance of truth and found the allegation to be credible.”
Investigators concluded none of the 97 Florida priests credibly accused in the report can be prosecuted because the person is either dead or the statute of limitations has expired.
Prosecutor Nick Cox with the Office of Statewide Prosecution has been working to investigate the history of sex abuse in Florida’s churches since 2018.
“I was immediately concerned with whether or not there were children still affiliated with the church, with the Catholic church, that may be in danger now. So it started out with us simply looking at more recent years to see whether or not we had any immediate problems still going on in the church. And then once we got done with that, we decided to look back historically to see if there was anyone we could prosecute historically,” said Cox. “It was disturbing. And whether it was in the Catholic church or anywhere, it’s disturbing. But you know, what got to me was is this was a church."
The report also revealed 81 priests who were relocated to Florida after being credibly accused of sexual abuse in other parts of the country.
According to the report, “historical records indicating that priests were repeatedly relocated after allegations arose in order to protect the offender or prevent public knowledge of the allegation. Historically, authorities were not notified of abuse.”
It’s still unclear how many of those relocated to the Diocese of St. Augustine.
News4Jax also asked officials at the Diocese of St. Augustine how many of the names that were relocated are affiliated with them and so far, have not received an answer.