Alleged Abuser Named for the First Time in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, SNAP Responds

Allegations that a priest sexually abused at least four children in Florida were announced yesterday for the first time. According to the attorneys representing the victim, the priest in question has been accused by at least four different people, at least one of whom has already reported to church officials who found him “not credible.”

According to attorney Dyril Flanagan who is representing David Lasher, allegations were made that Fr. Cornelius “Connie” Doherty had sexually abused David as a child in the fall of 2018. Church officials in St. Petersburg claim to have investigated the allegations against Fr. Doherty who passed in 1975 yet ended up deeming the allegations unsubstantiated. In a worrying twist, last October Mr. Flanagan was reviewing the personnel file for Fr. Doherty and found a handwritten note in the file indicating that Fr. Doherty had been living in Houston with a family of 9 children in the 1970s. Once he tracked down that family, three members of the family told Mr. Flanagan that they had also been abused as children by Fr. Doherty.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg must now explain publicly why they did not find the allegations against Fr. Doherty previously credible. They should also explain who wrote the note that was placed in his personnel file and whether they knew at the time that Fr. Doherty represented a danger to children. To us, the note is a confusing entry

Additionally, church officials should immediately update their list of accused clerics to include Fr. Doherty. They should also be sure to include his complete work history, photos, and information and when the allegations were first reported and what actions church officials took in response. After taking these steps, Bishop Gregory Parkes should personally visit each parish where Fr. Doherty worked, spreading the information and encouraging other survivors to come forward.

We applaud these courageous survivors for coming forward and naming their abuser. We hope that others who experienced sexual abuse – whether by Fr. Doherty or others within the Diocese of St. Petersburg – will call independent sources of help like therapists, law enforcement and support groups like ours.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

 


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