Victim of Sexual Abuse by Diocese of Venice Priest Tells His Story

August 25, 2014 Ronald Joseph Sexual Abuse priest

A 37-year old Port Charlotte man represented by attorney Adam Horowitz of Farmer Jaffe Weissing recently spoke out about his childhoood abuse experience at the hands of the Rev. Jean Ronald Joseph, in a story published in The News-Press. His story involves being fondled as a 16-year old boy in the priest’s living quarters in Fort Myers, Florida. As a teenager, this frightened and caused his to freeze in disbelief. Years later he had the courage to come forward to report his abuse the Diocese of Venice. But then he was re-victimized. His identity, which had been confidential until that time, was publicly outed by the accused priest and his attorney at a news conference. The letter he sent to church officials describing the abuse and its effect on him was read aloud to friends and neighbors. And then his community turned its back on him because he was called a liar by a priest who was a leader in the Haitian community. Even worse, the Diocese of Venice never publicly condemned the priest or alerted the public about the red flags behavior they had known about for nearly 15 years.

The victim, who first came forward to the Diocee of Venice in 2008, said he spoke out 15 years after his abuse in 1993 incident not because he wanted money but to stop Father Joseph from participating in his mother’s funeral. “For many years, I just acted like it never happened and tried to move on with my life,” he said. When his mother was dying, he knew he had to tell her. Besides, he said he realized he was getting older, and knew he had to eventually confronted what had happened in order to heal.

The victim said he learned for the first time in April 2014 that Diocese of Venice tribunal found Joseph guilty and removed him from the priesthood in 2013 after a lengthy 4 1/2 year investigation and canonical trial held by the Diocese of Venice. He found out only because another priest of the Diocese of Venice leaked the Diocese’ tribunal trial documents to his father. What he read in tribunal document was stunning. It stated as follows, “The Court also finds (victim) credible when he states the Defendant did fondle his genital area and touch his penis when he was asleep in bed with the defendant and that when (victim) did not respond in a positive manner the defendant ceased his fondling behavior.”  But the account of the trial also describes countless “red flags” and complaints from witnesses, priests and staff at the rectory that teenage boys were being allowed to stay overnight with Joseph. The priest was reprimanded at least twice for the practice. Joseph also took boys on international trips for his ministry in Haiti, the document said.

The Tribunal’s final conclusion: “This Court finds that the Promoter of Justice has met (sic) burden of proof and that the Reverend Jean Ronald Joseph, a priest of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, is guilty of a violation of the 6th commandment of the Decalogue with a minor sixteen (16) years of age in contravention of Canon 1395, paragraph 2, and that the Defendant is subject to a just canonical penalty.” According to the News-Press, Joseph has appealed this decision to the Vatican.

We applaud this brave man for having the courage to come forward. In so doing, he was able to expose an alleged predator and correct his community’s perception that Father Joseph is an innocent man. As a direct result of his claim, Ronald Jean Joseph has been removed from the priesthood.  Moreover, the tribunal documents he obtained detail numerous Haitian teenage boys coming and going from Jean Ronald Joseph’s living quarters. We hope that this man’s strength and resolve will encourage others who may have been abused or witnessed abuse to come forward as well and report these incidents.

Our attorneys are experienced in handling lawsuits involving clergy sexual abuse by priests and other leaders of religious organizations. If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual battery or child sexual abuse, please contact our law firm at 855-700-PATH or send an e-mail to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected]. Farmer Jaffe Weissing handles sexual abuse cases nationwide.