Priest Sex Abuse Scandal Hits Orlando Again

May 13th, 2010 by

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Catholic priest sex abuse scandal has hit Orlando again. One lawsuit was filed Wednesday afternoon against the Orlando Diocese and another could be on the way involving a priest who’s still leading a church.

Wednesday afternoon, the Orlando Diocese fired back and one of the priests involved defended himself.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday is against a former priest named Richard Emerson; it’s the fourth sex abuse case against him. And there could be another lawsuit to come. The lawsuit would be against Father Patrick Sheedy; the Diocese says it’s the first time he’s ever been accused.
Father Sheedy, who’s at Blessed Trinity Church in Ocala said in a written statement he’s going to sue his accuser for ruining his good name. Sheedy went public with a brief on camera statement in his own defense and the alleged victim of a former priest also went public on camera Wednesday.
Jason Bell, 34, says he was abused by Father Richard Emerson. Meanwhile, Father Patrick Sheedy says he never abused a young boy at a Lakeland church.
Bell said Father Emerson, who’s since been defrocked, sexually abused him for possibly four years after plying him and other children with alcohol and more.
“He showed us a lot of pornography. So you’re not really sure, ‘cause this is a man you looked up to,” Bell said Wednesday (watch full statement). “That’s when I just shut in myself and didn’t really talk to too many people about it, tried to bury it deep.”
Bell said his children inspired him to fight his fear and shame and to come forward.
Emerson has three other pending cases, one of which could go to trial in Orange County by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, another lawsuit was almost filed Wednesday against Father Patrick Sheedy after a former Lakeland parishioner accused the priest of sexually abusing him in the mid 1970s. The man accusing Father Sheedy of raping him when he was a young boy has filed a police report; his lawyers have been working on the case for about a year and they believe him.
“Do you stand behind your client’s accusations against him?” WFTV reporter Kathi Belich asked Joseph Saunders, the unnamed alleged victims’ lawyer.
“They’ve requested that I not say anything until they’ve had a chance to look into it more,” Saunders said.
Wednesday, Sheedy, with Bishop Thomas Wenski of the Orlando Diocese at his side, fought back.
“My record on this stands for itself. I emphatically deny any allegations of any misconduct involving a minor anywhere,” Sheedy said Wednesday (watch full statement).
Bishop Wenski did not speak, but the Diocese spokeswoman told reporters that the Diocese has never had a complaint against Father Sheedy.
“There are some holes in the information that he claims he has,” Carol Brinati said.
The Diocese lawyer spoke with the alleged victim’s lawyers, asking for time to look into it, and the alleged victim’s lawyers agreed not to file a lawsuit against Father Sheedy for now.
The St. Petersburg lawyers, who represent both alleged victims of abuse at the hands of priests, say it is not uncommon for priests to deny the allegations and, more and more often, Diocese and even the Holy See in Rome have been going on the offensive and threatening to sue the alleged victims.
Pope Benedict has been criticized for looking the other way in the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church. But, just Tuesday, he spoke directly about the problem.
“Sins inside the church posed the greatest threat to Catholicism,” Pope Benedict XVI said. “The Roman Catholic Church has always suffered from internal problems and today we see it in a truly terrifying way.”
WFTV checked and Florida has had its share of priests accused of abuse, 88 priests to be exact, and that counts Father Sheedy.
The cases are at different points in the legal process. Thirty-six are involved in active lawsuits, ten led to convictions, one priest is currently indicted, two are under arrest and 12 cases have been settled. Thirteen of the 88 cases have a direct tie to Central Florida.
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2 Responses

  1. Karen Murphy-Esbenshade

    Father Patrick Sheedy has never touched a lick of alcohol, broken his vows or even thought of harming a young boy or little girl for that matter. These are bold face lies from the pit of hell! As a former employee who worked directly with Fr. Pat, I am outraged. It proves we are living in uncertain times especially when such a godly man is falsely accused and singled out. My steadfast prayers are with Fr. Pat as well as his accuser. God knows and sees all truth and will surely vindicate His innocent priest. “Hang in there Fr. Pat; God will never let His righteous be foresaken.”

  2. margaret rafferty

    anyone who knows FATHER PAT loves and respects him he is truley a MAN of GOD he has given commumion and conformation to all my grandchidren and they all adore him and are heartsick that anyone would fasely acuse him. has any one taken into consideration that his acuser is a drug addict and a drunk !!! may GOD have mercy on him BECAUSE I CAN NOT and he should have charges against him for slander any lying and of course he will have his hand out for MONEY because thats what this is all about. FATHER PAT hold your head up high this is a test and you win. WE ALL LOVE YOU THE RAFFERTY FAMILY

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