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With Catholic sex abuse summit in Vatican, will Palm Beach Diocese name priests accused of abuse?

Posted: 5:00 PM, Feb 20, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-20 18:37:13-05
Diocese responds to priest's allegations

Starting Thursday, more than 100 Roman Catholic bishops will gather in Rome for a summit the pope has called to address clerical sex abuse.

It comes at a time when more than half of all the dioceses in the U.S. have named priests in their ranks who have been accused of child abuse.

Will the Diocese of Palm Beach do the same?

"Do what's right for the others over what's right for yourselves," says Eugene Rosenquest.

Rosenquest runs the Florida Chapter of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Abused by a priest as a child, Rosenquest has a message for the Diocese of Palm Beach.

"Basically be honest. Get on the right side of history."

HISTORY OF ABUSE

The Diocese of Palm Beach is no stranger to the wrong side of history.

Bishop Keith Symons resigned in 1998, after he confessed to molesting five young boys in the early days of his priesthood. At the time WPTV reported "church leaders said they wouldn't be surprised if there were more."

The bishop who replaced Symons, Bishop Anthony O'Connell, had to resign as well, after he admitted to the sexual abuse of at least two former seminary students.

In 2003, the diocese confirmed they removed nine priests because of abuse allegations, but never released their names.

"It's important for some victims to see a name and realize that I wasn't the only one abused by this particular individual," says Rosenquest. "My perpetrator admitted what he did, and then I was sort of deceived as to what was going to happen to him."

Rosenquest's deception happened in the Diocese of Brooklyn, but Palm Beach has a chance to not do the same.

SOME DIOCESES COMING CLEAN

Just this weekend, the Diocese of Brooklyn named 108 priests accused of sex abuse, joining dioceses in states like Virginia, New Jersey and Texas.

One-hundred-and-twelve dioceses in the country have now named priests with credible claims of abuse, with more dioceses promising lists in the future. There are 196 archdioceses and dioceses in the U.S. according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"After the crime, you think you're the only one in the universe who has had this experience and it's a very isolating kind of victimization," says Rosenquest.

THE DIOCESE OF PALM BEACH RESPONDS

Earlier this month, Contact 5 Investigator Sam Smink emailed the Diocese of Palm Beach, asking them to release a list of all priests with credible claims of abuse, and if they weren't going to, to explain why.
After ten days with no answer, she emailed them again, and received two words back: "No response."

"Well you know it makes me angry but like I'm at this point I'm beyond the anger. It's sort of the Modus Operandi. It's callousness, it's self protection," says Rosenquest.

After releasing their list, the Cardinal of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese said these lists help victims heal and rebuild trust.

Rosenquest says it's a good first step.

"It brings out truth, and truth is always a good thing. You can't solve a problem unless you recognize it," says Rosenquest. "It's also a deterrent for predators also who may be tempted to do something else that gives them access to children. And if the public is aware, it means they’ll be able to help recognize and find any potential predators who may have slipped through the cracks through the years."

The Diocese of Palm Beach's current bishop, Bishop Gerald Barbarito, came to Palm Beach in 2003 from Diocese in Ogdensburg, New York. While there, he repeatedly pledged to remove any priests found to have abused a child, and has made the same promise here.

But according to newspaper articles, the Bishop said he saw no need to publicly name accused priests.

MORE ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE

According to reports, in 1998, the Diocese of Palm Beach accepted the resignation of Edwin Collins, a retired priest from Rockville Centre, N.Y., who allegedly made advances toward a teenager in Palm Beach.

Collins had been working at a Lake Worth church. A sheriff's report from that time shows the teenage boy accused Collins of trying to fondle him after he fell asleep in the older man's bed. The report says an administrator with the Diocese told detectives Collins had admitted he inappropriately touched the boy.

Elias Guimaraes, a priest working in the Palm Beach Diocese, was arrested in 2002 after he arrived to have a sexual encounter with a detective who had been posing as a 14-year-old boy on the Internet.

According to reports, Guimaraes sent sexually explicit messages and bragged of having sex with a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy. He later plead guilty.

Francis Maloney was removed in 2002 after a 17-year-old accused him of acting inappropriately. A civil suit was filed and later settled.

In 2015, Jose Palimattom was arrested for showing child porn to a 14-year-old boy.

In August 2018, Pennsylvania named 300 priests accused of sexual abuse in a bombshell grand jury report. Monsignor Thomas Benestad was on that list. According to the Diocese, Benestad relocated to Boca Raton in 2007 after a medical leave and assisted at Ascension Catholic Church on Federal Highway in Boca for two years. They say he passed background checks, and it wasn't until 2011 they received word of the allegations and he was ordered to refrain from all forms of Catholic ministry.

The Diocese's first bishop, Reverend Thomas Daily, was criticized for his past involvement in cases of priests accused of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston.

If you'd like to contact Rosenquest, he is looking to grow the Florida SNAP chapter. His information can be found here: http://www.snapnetwork.org/florida