FL--Victims blast bishop on abuse decision
For immediate release: Monday, July 13
An allegation of child sexual abuse against a Florida Catholic priest has been deemed “unsubstantiated” by his church supervisors.
Fr. Leo Riley was suspended from his parish, St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church on Rattlesnake Hammock Road in Naples, in March when the allegations surfaced. (In December, the victim contacted church officials but they delayed three months before ousting Fr. Riley.)
We have little faith in secretive church “investigations,” so we are worried that Fr. Riley has allegedly been “cleared” by his church colleagues. It seems obvious that Bishop Michael Jackels’ hand-picked panel did not even interview the accuser but instead relied on the second-hand report of a person hand-picked and paid by Jackels.
We hope parishioners, the press and the public – in both Florida and Iowa - will press Jackels to disclose more about his so-called “investigation” and how it was carried out, and about the claim that Fr. Riley was sent to Florida to allegedly be near family (see below).
We beg every single person who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Riley or cover ups by his supervisors to speak up now. It’s crucial to share what you may have seen, heard or suspected with secular authorities, not church officials.
Fr. Riley’s work history is, at best, odd, and at worst, highly suspicious and lend credibility to the accusations against him.
First, he apparently was sent to work in Florida during the year the church’s abuse and cover up scandal erupted (2002).
Second, in Florida he lived, in an unusual arrangement, in a rectory with two priests from Newark (Fr. Nicholas McLoughlin and Fr Jean-Marie 'Fritz' Ligonde) and one from Marquette (Fr. Thomas Wantland).
Fr. McLoughlin was named as a defendant in a clergy sex abuse and cover-up lawsuit for allegedly concealing child sex crimes by his brother, also a priest.
Third, Fr. Riley was demoted, for undisclosed reasons, while in Florida.
Fourth, Fr. Riley was transferred often during his Iowa years. He worked in churches in Cresco, Dubuque, Roseville, Buffalo Center, Woden, Forest City, Lake Mills, Clermont, Postville, Dougherty, Rockford, Rockwell, and Cartersville.
Finally, our hearts ache for Jeff Buchheit, the brave young man who acted responsibly by reporting his abuse. We hope he will persist in his courageous struggle to protect others from this predator.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.