Venice Diocese to pay settlement in priest sex abuse case

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Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 5:00 pm

VENICE, Fla. -- Abuse claims against a Catholic priest with Suncoast ties has led to a six figure settlement between the Diocese of Venice and the victim.

Those representing the victim say it's all a result of leaked documents surrounding an internal investigation which found former priest Jean Ronald Joseph guilty of molesting the young man in a Ft. Myers church back in 1993.

The allegations against Joseph were made back in 2008, and the Diocese apparently conducted an investigation. More than four years later, these documents were leaked, showing the accusations were found credible.

Now they’re paying up.

"I cannot tell you how many times as a human being I lost hope." In 2008 Jean Ronald Joseph was a priest at St. Bernard Catholic Church on Anna Maria Island when he was accused of molesting a 16-year-old boy back in 1993 in Ft. Myers.

In 2009 he very publically denounced the accusations.

"Four and a half years later, my client got a hold of a document showing the Catholic Church in Ft. Myers did an internal investigation, and in fact found that it was Father Joseph that was guilty." According to the victim's attorney, Adam Horowitz, his client was called a liar by Joseph.

The leaked documents show the Diocese found the accusations credible. It never released the info.

Horowitz says with documents in hand, the church has now settled for six figures out of court. "It culminated in a settlement two months ago."

A release by the Diocese reads in part: "The Diocese of Venice continues to be deeply committed to the concerns of victims of clerical sexual abuse and the proper, transparent handling of all the allegations of sexual misconduct."

It goes onto say: “Out of continuing pastoral concern for the victim, the Diocese of Venice worked together in the mediation process with him and his attorney, and came to an acceptable and mutual agreement."

"When he called my client a liar, it carried a lot of weight within that community," says Horowitz.

Transparency surrounding abuse is something the church vowed to be better at back in 2002. That’s something Horowitz says is questionable here. "When the Catholic Church makes announcements that they are going to be more transparent and fair with its victims, those are just words. It's important to see where their actions are. At least in this case their actions show very little has changed."

The Diocese also addressed that issue in their release, claiming that "at all times the Diocese of Venice was and continues to be committed to transparency and to following all appropriate procedures."

ABC 7 is told that Joseph is appealing the case to the Vatican.

The documents say there could be more issues. They point to some red flags insinuating there could be inappropriate conduct with other boys more recently.

Diocese of Venice: Statement Regarding Rev. Joseph

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