Diocese of Venice say they had no knowledge of accused Father Brague’s past

A priest with a sketchy past was intentionally brought here to Southwest Florida according to grand jury indictment documents from a sex abuse investigation in Pennsylvania on the Catholic Church.

The diocese of Pennsylvania knew Father Robert Brague was accused of impregnating a teenage girl there and they allowed him to go to St. Ann’s in naples anyway.

Thursday, for the first time we’re hearing from the diocese about why he was allowed to move to Naples.

Church is supposed to be a safe place for those who attend, that’s why shock waves were sent throughout the country once the grand jury reported more than 1,000 minors were sexually assaulted by priests.

We asked the Diocese of Venice why they would let this man work there, and they say their branch had zero knowledge of any allegations. In fact in the reports, a Pennsylvania bishop wholeheartedly recommended that Brague go there.

Now, Brague did pass away in 1997, but attorney Lance Dunford says he could be facing serious charges if he was alive, “To any parent that is unfortunately having to deal with the situation, it’s never going to seem fair, it’s never fair that your child is even subjected to the type of behavior that is being accused if in fact it is true.”

According to the reports, all the cases were covered up by the diocese including the case of Brague who was appointed to St. Ann’s church in Naples back in 1990.

He was accused of impregnating a 17-year-old girl in 1988 and was stripped of his job in Pennsylvania, but still was allowed to bishop here.

Lance says, “For the purposes were talking about with incidences that happened a long time ago law enforcement will be looking to charge people with, like felonies or capital felonies.”

“If the victim in any of these cases is under the age of 12, if there’s any type of penetration they certainly still could be – at least under Florida Law – capital offenses or life felonies, where there’s no statute of limitations regardless how long ago it occurred.”

Two other priests in those reports also live here in Southwest Florida. The Diocese of Venice say both of those men had no affiliation with their branch at all.

Full Statement from the Diocese of Venice:

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report released on August 14, 2018 indicates six priests with ties to the Diocese of Venice.

The said report mentions Rev. Robert Brague, a deceased priest from the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, who served in the Diocese of Venice as Parochial Vicar of St. Ann’s Parish in Naples from 1990 -1991, then at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Palmetto from 1991 to 1997. Father Brague, who remained a Diocese of Scranton priest throughout his stay here, passed away on December 18, 1997. The Diocese is not aware, nor was it ever informed, of any abuse allegations in the Diocese of Venice pertaining to Father Brague. This information has been verified from Diocesan archives. The then Bishop of the Diocese, Most Rev. John J. Nevins, Bishop from 1984-2007, and passed away in 2014.

Regarding the second priest, it can be confirmed that Rev. Thomas M. O’Donnell, has never had faculties in the Diocese of Venice, and priestly faculties were neither requested, nor granted. He is a priest from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, who resides at St. John XXIII HUD project (Housing and Urban Development) in Fort Myers. Residency requirements are determined by HUD and its fair housing rules. Eligibility and background screenings are required by HUD.

Father Sean Kerins, also mentioned in the report as a priest from the Diocese of Erie, has no association with the Diocese of Venice. It should be noted that the Diocese of Venice was informed by the Diocese of Erie in a letter dated February 2018, that one of their priests, Father Kerins, had been “removed from ministry” and would be residing with family in Naples.

Father Robert E. Spangenberg, C.S.Sp. was granted faculties in the Diocese of Venice from October 1989 through September 1990. He returned to Sarasota in July 2002 and stayed until February 2003; there is no record of faculties being granted for that period.

Regarding Fathers Raymond R. Rhoden and Timothy Sperber, there are no records in Diocesan files and they are unknown to the Diocese of Venice.

If a priest is retired, or moves to the area of the Diocese and does not request to exercise their priestly ministry, the Diocese is not always informed and has no way of confirming or knowing an individual is within its boundaries.

The Diocese of Venice and its entities, take very seriously the safety of all young people and vulnerable adults. To this end, the Diocese works to prevent any instances of abuse, particularly against minors and vulnerable adults with a zero-tolerance policy.

Any person who believes abuse has occurred should immediately contact the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

The sexual abuse of children and young people by anyone, but particularly by clergy and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, is unacceptable. The ways in which many of these crimes and sins were addressed, have caused enormous pain, anger and confusion. The Diocese asks all to pray for victims of this scourge and their families, to receive healing and renewed hope. The perpetrators of these inhumane crimes are to be held responsible for their actions.

The Diocese of Venice is aware of its responsibilities and role in reporting any accusation of sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable adults, and strives to be alert for any such offenses.

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