Former teacher says he was punished for protecting kids

FORT MYERS -- A Southwest Florida catholic high school teacher is speaking out tonight. He says he was fired for accusing a priest of asking teenage girls explicit questions during confession. Chris Wilson has dedicated the past 20 years of his life to the Catholic Church and its teachings.

He tells us the Penn State scandal has opened up new wounds, all while he still struggles with how to feel about the religion he says abandoned him.

"And she said there's a priest who's asking girls if they've masturbate and if they have sex," that's what former Bishop Verot teacher Chris Wilson says he heard from his female students after they got back from confession. 

"I knew it was outside the lines. It's even against the churches own law," Chris tells us.

So that day last spring the theology teacher reported the priest to the school, the Diocese of Venice, the Fort Myers police and the Department of Children and Families.

"It was obvious to me the diocese and the school officials wanted nothing to do w my concerns," he laments.  The following week, Chris was fired by Bishop Verot's principal. 

"Mr. Cavell told me plainly you stepped over the line when you called DCF," Chris remembers. And that's why he filed a lawsuit, claiming he was fired for blowing the whistle.  We reached out to the catholic diocese twice today to get its side of the story -- but nobody returned our calls. 

All of this leaving Chris at odds with his beliefs: "I believe in the mission of the church, but sadly the institution needs to be questioned by the people."

And Chris tells us he wasn't surprised about the Penn State scandal: "Both the Penn State situation and what happened at Bishop Verot could have been alleviated by following guideless."

The lawsuit still pending. In it, Chris is asking for just $15,000.

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Showing 3 comments

  • John Cox-Ford
    commented 2011-11-17 14:36:58 -0600
    Dear Chris,

    I want you to know you are not alone. I too lost my job (in the pastorate) after reporting clergy abuse in our ranks to supervisors and superiors. Sadly, it seemed every clergy person who spoke out against clergy abuse was stripped of ordination for speaking out back then. Most of the abusers we reported were reappointed, or retired with full benefits from the ministry, at that point.

    After 20 years ago, the pain of my mother church’s betrayal to me and those whom I served, and mostly to all who were victimized by her clergy, is as real to me now as if I were molested and defrocked yesterday. Even now, my own priest and bishop today in the Episcopal Church do not consider me an fit candidate for ordained ministry – because of the “baggage of the past”. Such baggage I can only cast off by continuing to speak truth about what I suffered and how live today; and the burden is light and easier on me day by day…. as I imagine it grows heavier and heavier on the Bishop and Priest of the Episcopal Church.

    My dear friend Chris, I want you to know how deeply grateful I personally feel for your courage to stand up in defense of those girls. To speak the truth, and do what is right- and face of such cruel treatment- from persons whose moral authority we trust is a truly Godly act..

    Know this, my dear friend, as for me – I now have my self-respect. I have a wife, a son, and two super grandsons who love me unconditionally – in ways mother church could never hope to teach or demonstrate to me. I live in a beautiful home, with wonderful Christian friends, We must stand up and speak the truth sometimes at great cost indeed. It may surprise you, as it has surprised me, Chris, that – We are not alone.

    You Friend in Christ,

    John Cox-Ford, M.Div.
  • Linda Briggs-Harty
    commented 2011-11-17 09:30:37 -0600
    I am so sorry, Chris, you had to go through this humiliation and assault on your reason and faith. You did right and will be rewarded for speaking truth.

    I experienced the same kind of disinterest—and eventually disapproval and subtle dismissal—when I spoke out about a credibly accused priest and former high school president being allowed to visit and remain at large at the school. The St. Louis Archdiocese removed the priest’s faculties to minister at local parishes (he’d had to step down from an active leadership role with his order), but it was all too late and in response to advocacy on the part of myself, SNAP and others.

    It was very similar to the Penn State situation. Many, in fact, believe the prosecuting attorney here should have prosecuted the priest/former president, but he got off with only this too-late archdiocesan censure.

    Know that other whistleblowers are behind you. We laud your efforts.
  • Liza Fernandez
    published this page in News Story of the Day 2011-11-17 08:20:00 -0600

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