Catholic diocese forced to deal with more allegations


– January 13, 2011

The Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg is again being forced to respond to allegations of misconduct in its clerical ranks.

Thursday, a representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, held a news conference in front of the diocese’s headquarters to talk about a $75,000 settlement with an alleged victim of sexual abuse by a longtime priest. The group also spoke about alleged abuse by two other priests who are now dead. The three priests, the group said, all served at Christ the King Catholic Church in Tampa.

SNAP, which claims membership of more than 10,000 in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe, also addressed the ongoing controversy at the Cathedral School of St. Jude in St. Petersburg. Parents are upset about the way they say a priest handled the sacrament of confession with their children in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Diocese spokesman Frank Murphy confirmed a $75,000 settlement in July to man who claimed he was abused by Monsignor Norman Balthazar, who was working at Christ the King at the time of the abuse in 1980.

“We don’t know that anything did occur,” Murphy said.

“But yet they paid $75,000,” countered Martha Jean Lorenzo, the Tampa representative of SNAP, at the news conference.

“Given the cost of investigation and legal fees and you’re dealing with someone who wants to settle, it is easier to provide a settlement,” Murphy said.

Between 1996, when Bishop Robert N. Lynch took over the diocese, and 2006, the diocese paid out $2.8 million in settlements. Some of that was covered by insurance, Murphy said.

SNAP accused Lynch of keeping silent about allegations against Balthazar and the settlement. Murphy said that since the alleged abuse happened to an adult, not a child, the diocese did not have to make it public.

MORE: http://www.tampabay.com/news/religion/catholic-diocese-forced-to-deal-with-more-allegations/1145359

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