Retired priest in Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee facing allegations; SNAP responds
(For Immediate Release July 10, 2023)
An allegation of abuse has been levied against a retired priest in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. According to a news report- Around 2011, the family of a Pensacola middle-school student, who was struggling with bullying, moved the boy to a new school hoping the change would help.
The boy’s mother enrolled him at St. John the Evangelist, a private Catholic school in Pensacola. She shared with the pastor there, then prominent Pensacola priest Monsignor James Flaherty, how much her son had suffered and how he needed support.
It can take survivors a long time to come forward and report abuse, and we believe this claim should be taken seriously and investigated fully. We stand in applause for the brave victim and his family for stepping forward. We want them to know we believe in them and support them in any way possible.
The details of Flaherty befriending the victim and requesting help with the church property are indicators of grooming a victim. Additionally, we always raise the caution flag when we see multiple transfers in clerics’ work history. To that point, we call on church officials in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee to conduct immediate outreach in the previous parishes and schools in which Flaherty worked and hope that this news will encourage other survivors of sexual violence to come forward to seek healing and justice.
Finally, regardless of what actions the Church has taken, we know that the best way for survivors to heal and protect other children is to make their own reports to law enforcement. We hope that this story will encourage any still-suffering survivors in the area to talk with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist so that they can start healing and find ways to break their silence.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)