The Diocese of Venice has reached a six figure settlement with a man who accused a former Fort Myers priest of sexual abuse. The agreement was reached after the accuser obtained secret documents showing the Catholic Church knew the priest was guilty of abusing him as a child.
During a press conference in front of St. Francis Xavier Church in Fort Myers Tuesday, the accuser’s attorney released documents from an investigation conducted by the Diocese of Venice over the span of four years.
The confidential investigation found Jean Ronald Joseph – a former priest at St. Francis—was guilty of violating cannon law by abusing a sixteen year old boy nearly two decades ago.
Adam Horowitz, the victim’s attorney, said his client came forward in 2008, but was only able to seek damages now because of these documents.
"We obtained these confidential church documents because one of the priests at the Diocese of Venice happened to be a friend and an associate of my client’s father—and he acted perhaps out of turn and gave my client that document," he said. "Had he not done so, we would have never seen this document. It would have never seen the light of day. And much of the community would have believed that Father Joseph was innocent of these charges and my client was a liar."
Horowitz said the church should have come forward with information when it closed its investigation and removed Father Joseph from his position last year. Father Joseph was a youth leader in the church and was a priest in Holmes Beach before being stripped of his priesthood.
In a statement, Diocese of Venice spokesmen Benedict Nguyen said out of concern for the victim, the Diocese came to a “acceptable and mutual agreement.” Nguyen also said that “at all times, the Diocese of Venice was and continues to be committed to transparency and to following all appropriate procedures.”