MIAMI, Fla. - A Mississippi man who claims he was molested by a Fort Myers priest when he sought after-school tutoring in the late 1960s has sued two Roman Catholic dioceses, claiming they actively concealed the sexual abuse.
The lawsuit was filed by Jimmy Wilkins, 56, in Miami on Tuesday but was publicized in a press conference in Fort Myers on Thursday.
Wilkins was raised Baptist but attended St. Francis Xavier School in Fort Myers in seventh grade, from 1967 to 1968.
When he had trouble with classes on Catholic theology, the suit claims, the Rev. Thomas Anglim came to his aid. The tutoring sessions allegedly turned into molestation in which Anglim touched the boy's buttocks, exposed his penis to the child and forced the student to masturbate him, according to the lawsuit.
Anglim allegedly told Wilkins it was all part of the lesson. Wilkins claims abuse occurred seven to ten times. He kept it secret until reporting it to the Diocese of Venice in 2008, his attorney Jessica Arbour said.
Unhappy with the response, Arbour said her client decided to sue. Arbour said Wilkins never returned to school after seventh grade and his mother didn't understand why. He was sent to live with relatives out of state and eventually earned his GED.
"I was scared to go back to school," Wilkins said in a written statement. "I've recently come to realize how much I have been affected by what Father Anglim did. He destroyed my faith in church and my fellow man."
At the time of the alleged abuse, St. Francis Xavier School was part of the Archdiocese of Miami, but fell under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Venice when it was founded in 1984. Both dioceses are named as defendants.
In a statement, the Venice diocese said it was made aware of the allegations against Anglim in August 2008 and immediately presented them to a review board, but the priest was already retired and was no longer able to speak or care for himself. He died Jan. 19.
The Venice diocese said it received no other complaints about Anglim. The Miami archdiocese did not respond to calls seeking comment.
The Associated Press doesn't typically name victims of sexual abuse, but Wilkins agreed to be named.