Diocese of Palm Beach ACCUSED PRIESTS

The Diocese of Palm Beach has faced numerous scandals involving sexual abuse by priests and bishops in the organization, including former bishop Joseph Keith Symons, who resigned in 1998 after admitting to sexually abusing five boys early in his career. One of the victims claimed that Symons molested him for about three years, starting when he was only 13. 

Then, in 2002, Symons’ successor, Anthony O’Connell, was also forced to resign after he admitted to molesting at least two underage seminarians while he was assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary in Hannibal, Missouri. Nine men in total had alleged that O’Connell abused them while at the seminary. O’Connell was never charged with any crime, and he was allowed to spend his retirement at an abbey in South Carolina. O’Connell died in 2012. 

The Diocese of Palm Beach includes the counties of Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee in Southeast Florida, and it serves more than 240,000 Catholics.

In 2004, the diocese settled a lawsuit against the diocese and others based on allegations that retired priest Francis Maloney sexually abused a teenage boy who attended John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce. According to the lawsuit, Maloney started a 12-year sexual relationship with a 17-year-old boy while the boy was working for him as a houseboy in Port St. Lucie. The lawsuit alleged that Maloney was often naked in front of the boy, frequently asked the boy inappropriate questions during their counseling sessions, and pornographic photos and letters.

Maloney was first assigned to the diocese in 1986, where he worked at St. Joseph Church in Stuart. Before retiring, he served at St. Rita in Wellington, St. Juliana in West Palm Beach, Holy Family in Port St. Lucie, and St. Luke in Fort Worth. The diocese forced him to retire in 2000 after it was disclosed that he was having a sexual relationship with another man while at St. Luke. Before the 2004 settlement in the Maloney case, the diocese had already paid more than $900,000 to settle seven other sexual abuse claims. 

The Diocese of Palm Beach is one of only a handful of dioceses that have still not released a list of clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. However, the organization ProPublica has compiled lists of credibly accused clergy, including those who may have served in the Diocese of Palm Beach. The list includes the following individuals:

  • Thomas J. Benestad
  • John Sutton
  • Charles Bartles 
  • Ronald Francis Burt. 

The Catholic Church watchdog organization has also compiled a list of credibly accused priests that have been accused of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Palm Beach. This list includes:

  • Edwin J. Collins
  • Frank Flynn
  • Elias Francisco Giumaraes
  • Francis Edward Maloney
  • Jose Palimattom
  • Joseph Keith Symons.

By refusing to release this list, the Diocese of Palm Beach continues to fail to protect its members from potential predators. The Diocese of Palm Beach has the legal duty to protect its members from injury. When it fails to do so, victims can also seek justice against the Diocese itself. If you or someone you love experienced sex abuse at the Diocese of Palm Beach, contact the experienced sexual abuse lawyers at Herman Law today for a free consultation.

Ordained: 1954
Status: Accused
In 1998, Collins, a retired priest from Rockville Centre, NY, made advances toward a teenager in Palm Beach. The boy fought him off and immediately told the diocese; Collins resigned. The vicar general wrote a letter and placed it in Collins’ file. Diocese of Rockville Centre was notified. Name not released to public in 2002 with other accused clergy. Family immediately complained to diocese about omission. Diocese said it “missed” the file. Included on the Rockville Centre diocese’s list of accused in 3/21. Abuse allegedly occurred at St. William the Abbot in Seaford NY, where he was assigned 1968-76, and at Collins’ house in Wellington FL.
Ordained: 1967
Status: Settled
From Ireland. Accused of seducing at least three women and of kissing and groping a young girl when she was ages 12-18. Police closed investigation in 9/02. Diocese was notified at least four times 1982-97 that Flynn was seducing women. Flynn left the diocese in 1997 and returned to Ireland because of a “weak heart.” Working at seminary in Dublin in 2002. Retired by 2004. Diocese paid at least two settlements involving Flynn. Named in a lawsuit.
Ordained: 1993
Status: Convicted
From Brazil. Arrived in the in Palm Beach diocese in 2001. Arrested in 9/02 when he arrived on a beach for a sexual rendezvous with a detective who had been posing as a 14-year-old boy on the internet. Guimaraes sent many sexually explicit messages and bragged of having sex with a 14-year old boy and a 16-year-old boy. Pleaded guilty in 2003; sentenced to four years and three months in federal prison. Released 5/23/06. May have been deported to Brazil upon release.
Ordained: 1959
Status: Settled
Ordained for the Diocese of Steubenville. Transferred in 1986 to the Palm Beach diocese. Removed from Florida parish in 2002 after 17-year-old accused him of behaving inappropriately around him. The youth said he found Maloney in bed with another man and that the priest would walk around his home nude while the youth was there. No criminal charges filed. Youth filed a civil suit in 3/03. Settled in 5/04 for less than $1M. Maloney admitted to a long-term, “sporadic” sexual relationship with the other priest.
Ordained: N/A
Status: Convicted
Arrested, charged with obscenity in 1/15 for showing child porn to a 14-year-old boy. Admitted behavior. Served 6 months jail then deported to native India in 6/15. Boy’s father alerted police. Priest sought the boy’s help to delete the photos. Assigned to Holy Name of Jesus, West Palm Beach since 12/14. Police said Palimattom had gotten in trouble in India for involvement with a boy. Diocese says background check prior to Palimattom’s arrival showed no prior misconduct. Holy Name Administrator, Rev. John Gallagher, told police he was instructed that when Palimattom arrived he was to have no contact with minors without adult present. Gallagher, who also alerted authorities about Palimattom, claimed demotion/poor treatment by diocese as a result in 1/16. Diocese refuted claim. Gallagher filed suit v diocese 1/11/17. Appeals court dismissed the suit 5/18, saying court cannot get involved in church administrative issues.
Ordained: 1958
Status: Accused
Bishop of Palm Beach Diocese1990 until resignation in 6/98 when it was revealed that he had molested five young men early in his ministry(1958-60s) in the Miami archdiocese. News public after a victim reported abuse to a church official. Symons admitted abuse and also to the abuse of the other four youths. Bishop of Pensacola-Tallassahee knew of abuse in 1995 but did nothing. By 1999 Symons was leading spiritual retreats for adults in MI.

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