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Brothers File Lawsuit Against Priest

Jun 7, 2002 | WPBF

A man accusing a Palm Beach County priest of sexual abuse spoke publicly Friday for the first time and also filed suit against the priest and two Catholic dioceses.

When the story first surfaced in April, the Rev. Matthew Fitzgerald denied the accusations through a statement by the Diocese of Palm Beach. He has refused to comment further.

His accuser agreed Friday to tell his side of the story under the condition that he remains anonymous.

"He pretty much grabbed me down below and whispered in my ear, 'I want to see it get big," the 33-year-old alleged victim told Eyewitness News 25.

The Palm Beach County man detailed the sexual advances and fondling he says he received from Fitzgerald 13 years ago. The accuser, then 20 years old, said he had just arrived in the United States from Ireland. Fitzgerald befriended his parents while they attended St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens, and allegedly used that relationship to abuse him and his older brother, the accuser said.

The brothers kept quiet about the alleged sexual advances until Bishop Anthony O'Connell resigned earlier this year.

"After (O'Connell resigned), I was angry. I was going to say something ... somebody stopped me," the alleged victim said. "This time, there's nobody to stop me. I'm tired of it. I'm sick of it. I hate to think there are other kids out there getting the same treatment."

The brothers officially filed suit Friday against Fitzgerald, but their attorney is also taking aim at the Diocese of Palm Beach and the Diocese of Rockville Center in New York.

The attorney said he believes neither diocese followed the proper procedures, background checks, or mandatory paperwork for transferring a priest, effectively shuffling around an accused sex abuser.

The Diocese of Palm Beach said it could not comment on the case.

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