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Diocese Says It Tried To Report Abuse Claim

May 3, 2002 | WPBF

After a 17-year-old St. Lucie County high school student said a priest in Port St. Lucie made sexual advances, the Diocese of Plm Beach says it tried to report the abuse.

On Thursday night, under the condition that WPBF-TV would protect his identity, the St. Lucie County high school student said Father Francis Maloney of St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton made sexual advances toward him.

"He started doing things that made me feel very uncomfortable -- walking across the house without his shirt on, then in his underwear, then it just became nude," the teen said. "He was very subtle. And honestly I just thought maybe I was wrong ... maybe I was reading something into this that actually wasn't there."

In a statement released Friday afternoon, the Palm Beach Diocese said when it tried to make a report to the state of Florida, "the intake officer would not take the call and transferred the call to the local sheriff's department," who "would not take the report either due to the nature of the allegations."

Chuck Johnson of the Port St. Lucie Police Department said there is no record of a report being made to the state abuse hotline. Protocal would be for a police department to be contacted by the state abuse hotline after taking the report.

On Friday, the diocese removed Maloney from active ministry, and replaced him with Father Clement Comesky.

The teen said the sexual advances -- both verbal and physical -- became increasingly overt and explicit while he worked as a housekeeper for Maloney from December to April

"Totally inappropriate. I can only say that without going into detail. It's so difficult to say and repeat," the teen said.

The teen said he discovered a letter in April that was addressed to Father Maloney from another priest. The letter allegedly described what Maloney should do to get the teen into bed.

The teen said he went to confront Maloney about the letter and found the priest in bed with a man.

"He was sitting on the bed, both were naked. Father Maloney actually started a conversation. He acted like it was absolutely nothing," the teen told Eyewitness News 25.

The teen said he went to the Diocese of Palm Beach a few days later to report the alleged incident.

On Wednesday, he met with the Apostolic Administrator, Father James Murtaugh, and the attorney for the diocese.

The teen said they asked him what they should do about the situation.

"It seemed kind of funny to me that we have adults here asking a 17-year-old what it is I want done. I think they should know what to do by now," he said.

The teen said he's the victim of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, and he feels that no one is doing anything to remedy the situation.

"To this moment, there's no doubt in my mind Father Maloney had all the intentions to pursue this sexually with me," the teen said.

The Palm Beach Diocese said they have contacted the appropriate authorities. But Eyewitness News 25 reported that it was the teen's school that called the abuse hotline, and that call wasn't made until after WPBF-TV started asking questions about the alleged misconduct.

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