Thu | Jul 19, 2018

Priest sues diocese; alleges persecution for reporting abuse

Published:Thursday | January 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM


A Roman Catholic priest filed a suit yesterday against his former diocese, saying that the bishop pushed him aside and lied about him because he called law enforcement after another priest showed child pornography to a teenage boy and cooperated with the investigation.

The Reverend John Gallagher said that Bishop Gerald Barbarito of the Palm Beach Diocese forced him from the church where he worked and publicly called him a liar after he refused to cover up for the other priest. Joseph Palimattom was convicted of showing obscene material to a minor, spent six months in jail and was deported home to India.

Gallagher told The Associated Press that his case shows the church has not reformed as promised, after it became public knowledge that church leaders had covered up sexual abuse by priests for decades around the world.

"Any priest could be in this situation," Gallagher said. "Any priest in this situation should know that if it happens to them, they will not get the support of the church. You will be ostracized."

The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount, but Gallagher's attorney, Ted Babbitt, said he will seek enough to cover Gallagher's lost salary and benefits plus punitive damages for his lost reputation.

The diocese declined specific comment on the lawsuit, but pointed to Barbarito's previous denials of Gallagher's allegations. In those statements, made last year after Gallagher went public with his accusation, Barbarito said that he and other church officials acted appropriately when Gallagher informed them of Palimattom's crime.