ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Top church officials in Northeast Florida published a list of 13 priests with credible allegations of sex abuse against them. All 13 have ties to the Diocese of St. Augustine, according to the Diocese, and are all either dead or were removed from ministry.
The list was published this week after the Office of Statewide Prosecutors released its long-awaited findings from a two-year-long investigation into sex abuse within Florida’s Catholic churches.
A Florida Statewide Prosecutor said at the start of the investigation he was immediately concerned with whether children were currently being abused by clergy in Florida, but the investigation found no allegations of sex abuse after 2002.
Investigators did release a list of 97 priests they found were credibly accused of sexual abuse prior to 2002. The list included at least five clergy members who held assignments within the Diocese of St. Augustine at the time of the allegation and only one of them is currently alive, according to the Office of the Attorney General.
“It was disturbing. And whether it was in the Catholic Church or anywhere, it’s disturbing,” said state prosecutor Nick Cox. “But you know, what got to me was is this was a church.”
The list released by the Office of Statewide Prosecutors triggered the Diocese of St. Augustine to release the results of its own audit and list of credibly accused clergy members.
In February 2020, Communications Director with the Diocese of St. Augustine Kathleen Bagg said the church planned to release its own audit findings after the state released its report.
The list released by the Diocese of St. Augustine included more names than the five previously reported by state prosecutors.
“We looked at them as prosecutors would, to see whether, if the evidence was still available and it was admissible, we felt we could file a case and have a reasonable likelihood to prevail. Our standard was more rigid because again, we were looking to see if, under whatever circumstances, we would have a shot to prevail in court,” Cox said.
Fr. Cornelius “Neil” Carr is one of the men identified in the Diocese of St. Augustine’s list of credibly accused. The Office of Statewide Prosecutors listed Carr as one of the dozens who were accused of sexual abuse in another state and subsequently relocated or re-assigned to Florida.
Carr was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1951. In 2006, the Jesuits investigated allegations of child abuse involving Carr. In the years before the investigation, Carr was assigned to Christ the King Catholic Church in Jacksonville from 2002 to 2005.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans estimated in their 2018 report on Clergy abuse that Carr sexually abused minors during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Diocese of St. Augustine wrote Carr is alleged to have sexually abused a minor in 1991.
Questions to the St. Augustine on Tuesday went unanswered.
The Office of the Attorney General told us Tuesday it is working to tell News4Jax how many of the priests who relocated came from the Diocese of St. Augustine and to provide notes detailing the nature and number of allegations against priests listed as credibly accused.