“Priest sues diocese; alleges persecution for reporting abuse” & related articles

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The News & Observer

11 January 2017

A Roman Catholic priest filed suit Wednesday 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 Rev. 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 happened 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 says that he and other church officials acted appropriately when Gallagher informed them of Palimattom’s crime.

“We not only immediately reported the incident to the police and state attorney, but cooperated as fully in the investigation as we could,” Barbarito said in one statement that was read in churches throughout the diocese. “Father Gallagher’s harmful assertions are an embarrassment to my brother priests as well as to me.”

Gallagher, 49 and a priest since 1992, came to the United States from his native Northern Ireland in 2000 and became the head priest at Holy Name of Jesus in West Palm Beach in April 2014.

That following December, Palimattom arrived from India and was assigned to be Gallagher’s assistant. According the lawsuit, church officials in India did not tell Gallagher that Palimattom had been previously accused of sexually abusing children.

Gallagher says in the lawsuit that on Jan. 5, 2015, three weeks after Palimattom’s arrival, a 14-year-old boy complained that Palimattom had shown him sexually explicit photographs of naked boys who were approximately 6 years old.

Gallagher says he immediately confronted Palimattom, who admitted showing the photographs to the teen. The conversation was witnessed by a retired Palm Beach County sheriff’s detective and his wife, the church’s office manager.

“His answer was, ‘I’ve done this before, I have gone to confession, been told to say my prayers and everything will be OK,'” Gallagher said Wednesday.

Gallagher says he and the retired detective contacted the state attorney’s office and were told that the teen’s father had already reported Palimattom, who was arrested the next day.

He said he then called the diocese and was told that the normal procedure would be to send Palimattom home to India. He says he was also told him not to offer too much information to investigators, but he says he recounted his entire conversation with Palimattom to detectives. He also turned over security video showing the conversation.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office issued two commendation letters to Gallagher thanking him for his assistance. Chief Deputy Michael Gauger and Detective Debi Phillips each wrote that in previous investigations of sexual abuse the local church had not cooperated, so they were pleased by how helpful Gallagher had been. Two previous bishops of the diocese resigned after admitting to sexually abusing boys before arriving in Florida.

Gallagher said he then wrote letters to high-ranking Catholic officials, saying Palm Beach Diocese officials had tried to cover up the Palimattom case. He said Barbarito retaliated by driving him from Holy Name of Jesus by turning the Spanish-speaking portion of the parish against him. He said that in May 2015 when he was hospitalized for a possible heart attack, Barbarito showed up in his room and berated him, accusing him of faking. He said that when he was released, he found that he had been locked out of the parish.

After some Holy Name of Jesus parishioners publicly protested his dismissal, Barbarito had diocese priests read a statement in January 2016 at all Masses saying Gallagher was spreading falsehoods. On a Facebook page, one diocese official wrote Gallagher “is blatantly lying and in need of professional help as well as our prayers and mercy.” Similar statements were made to local news media.

Gallagher said Wednesday that he is unsure if he wants to remain a priest.

“Why would I ever trust them again?” he asked.


Priest sues diocese, claiming it punished him for reporting sex abuse

My Palm Beach Post

Updated: 5:58 p.m. Wednesday, January 11, 2017 |  Posted: 12:33 p.m. Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A former priest at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church on Wednesday sued the Diocese of Palm Beach, claiming it punished him for exposing a pedophile priest rather than covering it up as they wanted.

The lawsuit, filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, accuses the diocese and Bishop Gerald Barbarito of defaming the Rev. John Gallagher. The 49-year-old priest pointed to a statement posted last year on the diocesan website that said Gallagher was “blatantly lying” and “in need of professional assistance” for claiming church leaders urged him not to tell police a visiting priest in January 2015 had shown pornographic pictures to a 14-year-old youth at the suburban West Palm Beach church.

“Today is a sad day,” said Gallagher, who was wearing a clerical collar at a morning press conference. “Thirty years of my life has been destroyed by the Roman church.”

His attorney, Ted Babbitt, said his treatment is especially heinous because the Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope Francis has pledged to vigorously root out priests accused of sex offenses.

Gallagher says that when he learned of transgressions by a visiting priest, the Rev. Jose Varkey Palimattom, diocesan leaders told him the best course of action was to put Palimattom on a plane back to his home in India. Gallagher said he also learned Palimattom had a history of inappropriate conduct with children in India, making Gallagher suspect the church was continuing its well-documented practice of moving problem priests to other parishes.

After Gallagher worked with Palm Beach County sheriff’s detectives to prosecute Palimattom, he was locked out of the church on Southern Boulevard and Military Trail. While he was lauded by Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael Gauger for working with detectives, he was treated like a pariah by diocesan leaders, Babbitt said.

Further, Gallagher said, his pleas for assistance from other church leaders, including those at the Vatican, went unanswered.

He said he reached out to Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, who was sent to Palm Beach County in 2002 to become its bishop after two of his predecessors were removed as a result of sexual misconduct. O’Malley, who went on to lead the troubled Catholic Church in Boston after it was rocked by priest pedophile scandals and was later elevated to cardinal, offered no help, Gallagher said.

Sadly, Babbitt said, Gallagher’s treatment shows the church has not taken steps to deal with abuses that were detailed last year in the award-winning movie, “Spotlight.”

“It’s exactly the same attitude,” he said. Like priests in the movie that chronicled the Boston Globe’s 2002 investigation of sexual misconduct by Catholic clergy, church leaders wanted to deny wrongdoing. “It shows the Catholic Church has learned nothing despite years of abuse scandals,” Babbitt said.

Dianne Laubert, a diocesan spokeswoman, said officials hadn’t seen the lawsuit. But, she said, their view of Gallagher’s allegations haven’t changed since they surfaced last January. In a statement that Barbarito on Jan. 29 asked be read during church services throughout the diocese, he denied the allegations.

“Our Diocese in no way, as Father Gallagher erroneously asserts, tried to ‘cover up’ the inappropriate behavior of a visiting priest,” Barbarito wrote. “In fact, in accord with our very rigorous policies pertaining to the protection of children, we not only immediately reported the incident to the police and State Attorney, but cooperated as fully as we could in the investigation.”

“Father Gallagher’s harmful assertions are an embarrassment to my brother priests as well as me,” the bishop wrote.

The diocese also posted three statements about Gallagher on its website last year. In one, it wrote: “Father Gallagher is blatantly lying and is in need of professional assistance as well as our prayers and mercy.”

Palimattom pleaded guilty in April 2015 to a charge of showing obscene material to a minor and was sentenced to six months in jail.

Last year as the controversy brewed, The Palm Beach Post reported that some fellow priests claimed Gallagher was upset that he was passed over for promotions and had numerous problems since arriving in the diocese from his home in Northern Ireland roughly 20 years ago.

In the lawsuit, Gallagher said the experience has reignited the post-traumatic stress disorder he suffers as a result of horrors he suffered in his war torn homeland. As pressure increased from church leaders to ignore Palimattom’s misdeeds, he was hospitalized with a heart attack. Upon his release, he discovered he was locked out of his home and his church, Babbitt said.

Gallagher said he has received no support from priests in the five-county diocese or any of the roughly 3,000 families who were members of the congregation. He said the diocesan’s statements against him are ironic.

One of the 10 Commandments dictates that “thou shall not bear false witness,” he said. “They used the pulpit to defame my name and my character.”


Indian priest claimed superiors knew he abused before

Florida’s Palm Beach diocese has murky past on clerical child sex abuse issue

The Irish Times

Wed, Feb 10, 2016, 01:00

Patsy McGarry

Fr John Gallagher began canon law proceedings last summer.

Fr John Gallagher began canon law proceedings last summer.

The Catholic diocese of Palm Beach in Florida was not informed that a priest convicted there last year on charges related to child abuse had a similar history in India.

Strabane-born Fr John Gallagher began canon law proceedings last summer against the Florida diocese after he was disciplined for raising questions about the Indian priest’s conduct.

The case by the Irish priest against Bishop Gerald Barbarito now rests with the Vatican’s new tribunal of accountability, set up to investigate the actions of bishops when faced with child abuse allegations.

Fr Jose Palimattom, who began working in Palm Beach in late 2014, admitted showing obscene images to a minor there on January 4th 2015. He subsequently pleaded guilty, served a sentence, and was deported to India.

According to police reports of the case seen by The Irish Times, investigating officers were told by three people that Fr Palimattom admitted he abused a minor in India prior to his arrival in the US, and said church authorities in India were aware of this.

Parochial administrator at the Palm Beach parish Irish priest Fr John Gallagher, office manager Barbara O’Shea and operations manager Kevin Flynn were told by Fr Palimattom, after the incident on January 4th, “of an undocumented incident in India”.

“When (Fr) Gallagher asked Palimattom if he had ever had sex with a male, he advised yes. When asked if the male was a minor, Palimattom said yes and that it was in his culture.”

Police reports said the witnesses agreed when “Palimattom was asked if the diocese in India was aware of his indiscretions with a male, he said yes. When asked how the incident was resolved, Palimattom advised he was told to go to confession and make a retreat and that all would be okay.”

Major superior

Interviewed by police on January 5th, 2015, Fr Palimattom said that “in 2014 he was advised by his major superior in India about a position as a priest in Palm Beach County, Florida . . . Palimattom applied for and then accepted the position and flew directly to the US from India.”

In a statement Palm Beach diocese said that prior to Fr Palimattom’s arrival “receipt of a certificate of aptitude from the minister provincial in India . . . assured us that there is nothing in his past that would indicate that he might deal with minors or adults in an inappropriate manner. . . no prior misconduct was revealed.”


In a statement the Franciscan’s Province of St Thomas the Apostle at Bangalore said that “to the best of our knowledge Fr Palimattom is a good, God-fearing priest and a gentleman”.

“And nothing of this sort of behaviour was manifested or reported to the authorities here in the province. There was no occasion where the authorities have reprimanded Fr Jose Palimattom concerning this subject.”

The case has been brought to the attention of Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley, himself a Franciscan, chair of Rome’s new Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Cardinal O’Malley served as Bishop of Palm Beach from 2002 to 2003. His three immediate predecessors in Palm Beach included two bishops who resigned on admissions that they had sexually abused minors. Bishop Keith Symons did so in 1998, and Bishop Anthony O’Connell in 2002.

A third predecessor there was Bishop Thomas Daily, Bishop of Palm Beach prior to Bishop Symon. He had been auxiliary bishop and chancellor in Boston archdiocese to 1984. In 2002 he expressed “profound regret” when named as defendant in 56 of 84 cases filed by people claiming abuse by America’s most notorious clerical paedophile Fr John Geoghan in Boston over three decades.


‘Evil-doer’ or inspiration? The dilemma of Father John Gallagher

Father John Gallagher has spent much of the past week portraying himself to media outlets in Ireland and Florida as a whistleblower punished by the Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach for alerting authorities to a pedophile priest.

But with the blessing of Bishop Gerald Barbarito, another version of Gallagher is emerging from diocese employees and parishioners. They paint an unflattering portrait of an egotistical problem-priest who spread lies about the diocese because he was passed over for a promotion for at least the second time in six years.

“The only reason that this is going on is that John is very upset and angry that he was not named pastor. That’s the bottom line. He wanted to be pastor of Holy Name so bad,’’ said Father Nestor Rodriguez, pastor at St. Ann’s Church in West Palm Beach. “John is a disgruntled employee of the diocese. He needs serious professional help.’’

Among allegations made to The Palm Beach Post about the 60-year-old priest, who rose from humble Northern Ireland origins and bounced around 11 pastoral assignments since coming to Florida in 2000, are:

• Gallagher sparked numerous complaints from Hispanic parishioners at Holy Name of Jesus Church in West Palm Beach. They say he drove a wedge into the congregation’s 2,000 members by mistreating Hispanics and trying to push them away from the church because he said they didn’t contribute enough to the collection plate.

• He harassed a Cuban priest, Father Jose Crucet, prompting Hispanic parishioners to demand Gallagher’s transfer. When Crucet resigned because of stress, the diocese, upon Gallagher’s recommendation, replaced Crucet with Father Jose Palimattom, who was arrested two months into his new assignment for showing pornographic images to a 14-year-old boy after Mass in January 2015.

• He transformed the living room of his parochial house into a piano bar where church employees served drinks and cleaned dishes at “high roller” parties he hosted for friends and parishioners.

Barbarito, whose diocese has issued two press releases this week discrediting Gallagher, took another extraordinary step Friday. He ordered priests to read a letter during Mass this weekend addressing Gallagher and his “unfounded allegations” that the diocese “tried to ‘cover up’ the inappropriate behavior of” Palimattom.

“Father Gallagher’s harmful assertions are an embarrassment to my brother priests as well as to me,” Barbarito says in the five-paragraph letter, which closes with the bishop asking parishioners “to pray for Father Gallagher.”

Gallagher on Friday referred questions about the diocese’s allegations to his attorney, who called the assertions a “smear” campaign meant to discredit a good priest.

“This shows what they are about — retaliation. That’s all there is,” said Robert Flummerfelt, an attorney with Canon Law Services in Las Vegas. “If they want to go down and fight in the gutter with Father Gallagher, he can do the same thing.”

In the spotlight

The priest-vs.-bishop spat appeared to start when Gallagher was passed over for a promotion at Holy Name last spring. That prompted him to start reaching out to media outlets with reports that the diocese changed the locks on his parochial house and transferred him to a Stuart church after he refused church orders to put Palimattom on a plane to India rather than report him to law enforcement.

The allegations seemed sensational considering how the Catholic Church has been trying to bounce back from an international scandal of priests abusing kids, a troubling episode currently being replayed in the Oscar-nominated movie “Spotlight.”

Gallagher’s assertions also sharply contrasted with the zero-tolerance policy adopted by the Palm Beach Diocese in 2002 after the resignation of the second of two bishops in four years over charges of improper sexual relationships with teenage boys.

To bolster his case, Gallagher supplied media outlets with a letter written to Cardinal Sean O’Malley by Chief Deputy Michael Gauger of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, praising Gallagher for his help in prosecuting Palimattom.

The Irish Independent newspaper published Gallagher’s assertions Monday, prompting several media outlets in Ireland and Florida, including The Palm Beach Post, to pursue the story.

The diocese initially responded with vague denials. But when the stories prompted a protest Tuesday in front of diocese offices in Palm Beach Gardens by members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the diocese went on the offensive.

Although Barbarito has made no public comments about Gallagher, he authorized priests and parishioners to talk to The Post.

“He is very smart. He is conniving. He is self-centered. He is all about John Gallagher,’’ said Luis Trinidad, who worked under Gallagher as the director of Hispanic Ministries at Holy Name.

Hispanic anger

Holy Name, on Military Trail just south of Gun Club Road, is a blue-collar parish with members from different cultural backgrounds. Last year, Rodriguez said, he and Barbarito sat through “many, many appointments” with parishioners, “both Anglo and Hispanic,’’ who were unhappy with Gallagher.

“One person after the other came up and said, ‘We don’t have anything personally against Father John, but we just feel he doesn’t understand us, he doesn’t interact with us.’ They were very disappointed at his performance. They felt cut off,” Rodriguez said.

Many congregants were upset that Gallagher would call the police on Hispanic kids who were playing basketball on church grounds.

“From day one he came in with the idea of getting rid of Hispanics in the parish,’’ Trinidad said. “He was always being a bully.’’

Jesus Lopez, a Holy Name parishioner for nearly 30 years, said he never saw Gallagher at the doors of the church shaking hands with church members after Mass.

“Maybe he did for the English Mass but not for the Spanish Mass,’’ Lopez said. “A lot of people ended up leaving the church until Father Gallagher was gone from here. I left for several months.”

Other parishioners complained that Gallagher was rarely available “when people would visit and seek counsel. Some people asked him to visit the sick, but he would not do that,” said Father Tom Barrett, who served on a committee that reviewed Gallagher’s performance at Holy Name.

Crucet, who has been with the diocese 15 years, said he served at Holy Name for three years. But the last four months there were stressful because he said he was harassed by Gallagher, who often changed his schedule at the last minute and parked his car in a way that prevented Crucet from accessing his car.

“He made me feel vulnerable, like he might manufacture something against me. He really had it in for me,” Crucet said.

“It deteriorated my health. I couldn’t sleep. My blood pressure was up. I was always worried. He accused me of stealing. He once showed me a sheriff’s card and said this man is looking for you.”

Crucet has since moved to St. Ignatius. “I looked in the English dictionary to find a word that properly reflects who he is. That word is ‘evil-doer,’ he said. “That defines the experience I had with him in the church. He made me suffer, he made me get sick. I decided to leave because I did not want confrontation.”

More than 150 people attended a meeting last February to air their grievances, which included accusations that Gallagher was trying to push away Hispanic members because they made up nearly one-third of the parish but contributed just 11 percent to collections.

“Over and over again, they commented that they were being discriminated against, they were not being treated justly and they were basically being abandoned and mistreated,’’ Rodriguez said.

Barrett added: “It was very much a groundswell of discontent.”

The Troubles

The accusations are remarkable considering Gallagher’s own background.

He was born and raised in the working-class town of Strabane, one of the most economically deprived communities in the United Kingdom. Like many towns in Northern Ireland, Strabane witnessed bombings and shootings in the political violence from the 1960s to the late 1990s known as The Troubles.

He’s the oldest of three brothers, including one who works as religious education director for the Archdiocese of Dublin. His parents still live in Strabane and attend Mass every day at the church where Gallagher started after he was ordained as a priest in 1992 — the Long Tower Parish, which dates to the year 542.

“John’s family came from quite humble origins but are very proud,’’ said Conor Donnelly, who grew in Derry, just north of Strabane, and spent time in the seminary with Gallagher.

“I couldn’t tell you any remarkable story about him. He was just a regular guy. He’s a very prayerful guy that inspires your spirit.’’

Locals still remember how Gallagher’s parents, during one spring break weekend, “organized fund-raising events to help pay for his education and training as a priest,’’ Donnelly said.

They also remember his talent as a singer and keyboard player who performed in bands and orchestras.

Gallagher became friends with the Irish singer Dana Rosemary Scallon, who sang the hit “All Kinds of Everything,” which knocked Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” off of Ireland’s No. 1 slot in 1970.

Scallon, who ran for president of Ireland in 1997 and later served as a member of European Parliament, worked with Gallagher on a musical album to raise money for low-income churches.

After Gallagher came to Florida in 2000, he persuaded her to perform concerts at Boca Raton’s St. Joan of Arc Church as recently as 2008.

Gallagher served as parochial vicar at St. Joan’s from July 2005 to October 2009. “It did not end well,’’ said Kevin Flinn, operations manager at Holy Name.

Flinn said Gallagher told him he had “put in for the pastoralship of St. Joan and they passed him over.’’

In all, Gallagher has had 11 assignments in the diocese, starting at St. Anastasia Church in Fort Pierce from September 2000 to August 2002 and ending with his transfer last spring to St. Joseph’s in Stuart.

He never reported to St. Joseph’s. He is on paid medical leave with benefits, even though he has not told the diocese where he is living.

“Despite the fact he had issues in every parish he’s been before, the bishop gave him the benefit of the doubt,’’ Rodriguez said. “When Father John was named administrator of Holy Name, trust me, there were priests on the board that said, ‘No, he’s going to mess it up again.’”

Parish piano bar

Not long after Gallagher’s arrival at Holy Name, he had workers install a piano and a bar in the rectory living room, where he would entertain friends, said Trinidad and Flinn.

“He called (his party friends) the high rollers,’’ Trinidad said.

Barrett said a priest having a piano in the rectory might not be surprising, “but certainly bringing in a bar would be unusual and not the norm.”

Flinn said many church employees resented “being invited to the party and being expected to tend bar and do dishes until the wee hours of the morning.’’

No one disputes Gallagher’s talents as a charismatic speaker who has offered inspiration and joy to congregants. Many parishioners called the diocese last week asking for Gallagher’s reinstatement, diocese spokeswoman Dianne Laubert said.

And many of his supporters say they have a hard time believing the diocese because of the Catholic Church’s history of covering up sex-abuse cases.

Gallagher has several friends who either work or used to work for PBSO, whose Gun Club Road headquarters is less than a half-mile from Holy Name.

Indications are Gauger, the PBSO’s second-in-command, decided on his own to write to Cardinal O’Malley, a former Palm Beach bishop, to praise Gallagher’s cooperation on the Palimattom case — and not at the request of Gallagher.

“I felt strongly about the cooperation we received and was compelled because of that to write the letter to the cardinal for accolades on (behalf of) Gallagher,’’ Gauger said in a voice message left for a reporter.

“Other than that I am not involved and I certainly don’t want to create an issue with the Catholic Church.’’

Some local Catholics fault the diocese for not fully commenting on Gallagher’s accusations as soon as the Irish newspaper broke the story.

“There’s a saying by Mark Twain: ‘A lie can travel around the world when the truth is still putting its boots on,’’’ Flinn said, “and that’s what this is.”

Staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this story.

Gallagher in Palm Beach Diocese

Parachial vicar at St. Anastasia Church, Fort Pierce — Sept. 1, 2000-Aug. 1, 2002

Parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. Ignatious Loyola, Palm Beach Gardens — Aug. 1, 2002-June 30, 2005

Parochial vicar at St. Joan of Arc Church, Boca Raton — July 1, 2005-Sept. 30, 2009

Special leave to study evangelization — Oct. 1, 2009-Jan. 1, 2010

Special leave, Ave Maria University, Naples — Jan. 4, 2010-June 30, 2011

Special leave, spiritual director-arts with Soleil — July 1, 2011-July 1, 2012

Parochial vicar, Holy Name of Jesus Church, West Palm Beach — Dec. 1, 2013-June 30, 2014

Parochial administrator, Holy Name — July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015

Special leave since July 1, 2015.

Source: Diocese of Palm Beach


Disheartened Diocese Provides Multi-Page Response to Allegations Made by Fr. Gallagher

Diocese of Palm Beach website

DPB Office of Communications

January 28, 2016

“The Diocese of Palm Beach is deeply disheartened and troubled by the allegations of Father John Gallagher against the Diocese of Palm Beach. Our diocese can no longer stand by in relative silence when we know the allegations are a complete inaccurate representation of the facts. Though we have released our statements stating how the Diocese of Palm Beach proactively and appropriately responded to the incident with Father Palimattom and stated Father Gallagher’s reassignment was not related to that particular incident, we are compelled by the manner in which the media is presenting this case to speak out further to be certain all sides and facts of this story are known. We feel it is especially important that this information is made available to the community and in particular to our faith congregations.

The Diocese of Palm Beach acted in a prompt, thorough, and cooperative manner in regard to Father Palimattom. Father Gallagher was not in any way demoted or removed because of the incident. He was not named as pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Church for a number of reasons not related to the incident involving Father Palimattom. He was given a new assignment with all the reasons explained to him. Access to his residence was never denied him, nor was he refused sacraments. At his request, he was placed on leave and continues to receive salary, health insurance and benefits.

The policy of the Diocese of Palm Beach in regard to allegations of sexual abuse is to follow the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, established in June 2002. The Charter is a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy or other Church personnel. The Charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse. The Charter and Diocesan policies and procedures can be found on our website at www.diocesepb.org/safe-environments.

Additionally, our diocese has a set of Reporting Procedures for Allegations of Sexual Abuse Against Minors. These guidelines are given to all priests, religious, employees and volunteers.

Father Gallagher alleges the Diocese of Palm Beach ignored these guidelines when in fact we know the Administration Offices of the Diocese did follow those procedures and our records show Father Gallagher did not.

Our Reporting Guidelines (in three languages: English, Spanish and Creole) are available on our website, in our Employee Handbooks and we require all the Churches and schools in our diocese to post these guidelines in several public places at their facilities.  We would like to now go through the steps with you in response to the recent published allegations.



STEP 1 The person receiving the allegation immediately makes an oral report to 1-800-96ABUSE (1-800-962-2873). Notes should be taken including names, dates, and times, and a log should be kept of all telephone calls made.

STEP 2 The person receiving the allegation makes an oral report to the Chancellor of the Diocese of Palm Beach at 561-775-9507, (cell 561-373-7990) who reports it to the bishop and diocesan attorney.

STEP 3 The diocesan attorney reports the allegation to the state attorney.

STEP 4 The person receiving the allegation informs the school principal, pastor or the appropriate immediate authority.

STEP 5 The person receiving the allegation sends a written report to the Department of Children and Families within 48 hours. Instructions regarding information to be included in this report are available from your entity’s pastor, principal, or administrator or the Chancellor’s office

As listed above in Step #1 the person receiving the allegation is to report the allegation immediately to an abuse number and Step #2 states the person receiving the allegation must make an oral report to the Chancellor of the diocese. Father Gallagher has publicly stated that he contacted the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office the night of Jan. 4 when the sheriff’s report shows that night it was only the family of the youth who contacted them. The youth’s father was the first and only person to contact law enforcement that night. Further, when the Diocese of Palm Beach was told of the incident by Father Gallagher on the next day, the diocese reported the allegation to law enforcement. The sheriff’s office told the diocese that the youth’s father had reported it already. There was no mention of Father Gallagher reporting the allegation.

Though Step #2 of the Reporting Procedures state the Chancellor is to be contacted after the authorities are notified, the Diocese of Palm Beach did not receive any oral or written communication about the incident from Father Gallagher on the evening of the incident. Father Gallagher did not contact the Chancellor until the next day, the morning of  January 5. Upon learning of the allegation, the Diocese of Palm Beach immediately contacted authorities and followed our own Reporting Procedures which include contacting law enforcement and the State Attorney. It is part of the policy/procedures of the Diocese of Palm Beach that although law enforcement has been contacted, and upon learning of any allegation, our diocesan attorney must provide a written report to the State Attorney about the incident. As we stated, this was in fact done on January 5.

Immediately upon learning of the allegation and for the next hours, days and weeks, the Diocese of Palm Beach continued to offer whatever assistance which law enforcement might need in a transparent manor. In fact, we were encouraged when we learned of the existence of the video showing the interaction between Father Palimattom and the youth as they looked at the visiting priests’ cell phone. We were encouraged because such video would be a benefit to law enforcement and the State Attorney as they pursued bringing charges and prosecuting Father Palimattom, ultimately putting him in jail where he would not be able to harm any other youth.

Clarification on Father Palimattom

The Diocese of Palm Beach also wishes to address allegations regarding what happened to Father Palimattom, the visiting priest from India, once the allegation was reported to the diocese.

Upon learning of the allegation, Bishop Barbarito immediately suspended all priestly faculties which were previously granted to Father Palimattom, so that he did not have permission to provide any ministry within our Diocese nor even present himself as a priest. The Diocese contacted the Minister Provincial of the Franciscan Province of St. Thomas the Apostle in India to which Father Palimattom belongs. As you are aware, Father Palimattom served time in jail for the criminal charges brought against him. In abundance of caution, even though Father Palimattom is not a priest of this Diocese, the Diocese of Palm Beach reported the allegations to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome to ensure Father Palimattom’s provincial would be contacted by Rome. Though we are required to report allegations against our diocesan priests to that Vatican Office, we are not required to report a visiting priest, but felt it was a measure the diocese should take. We were following the Canonical process and our diocesan reporting procedure.

It is worthy to note that the Diocese of Palm Beach did not invite Father Palimattom to our diocese. He was invited by Father Gallagher. When he told us he had done so, the Diocese began our due diligence. It is the policy of the Diocese of Palm Beach to conduct a full background screening when a visiting priest wishes to visit and/or minister within our Diocese. Part of Father Palimattom’s screening included a background screening conducted in India as well as receipt of a Certificate of Aptitude from the Minister Provincial in India that essentially approved Father Palimattom’s ministerial work, granted permission for him to come to our Diocese, and assured us that there is nothing in his past that would indicate that he might deal with minors or adults in an inappropriate manner. During this screening process, no prior misconduct was revealed.

Gallagher’s Other Allegations

We reiterate our earlier statements that the Diocese of Palm Beach deems the other allegations made by Father Gallagher to be a complete inaccurate reflection of the facts including the following:

Father Gallagher’s reassignment was not related to the incident with the visiting priest. When priests are assigned to lead a parish, they are first named as Parochial Administrator, not Pastor. This is a probationary assignment, as is clear in their letters of appointment. The position of parochial administrator is, by its nature, not a permanent position, but a period of adjustment and evaluation for both the priest’s sake and the parish’s. Towards the end of the first year, a committee assists Bishop in evaluating, taking many things into account – especially the congregation’s input and various events that may have taken place during that year. For many reasons that did not include the incident of Father Jose Palimattom it was determined that Father Gallagher would not be named Pastor at the end of the year, and he was assigned to a different parish as Parochial Vicar, to begin July 1, 2015. He never took the assignment because he asked to be put on Medical Leave, which was granted by Bishop Barbarito.

Father Gallagher alleges the locks on his former parochial house were changed, leaving him homeless. That is false. The Diocese of Palm Beach was not negligent in providing housing. Father Gallagher was given a new assignment with residence.

Father Gallagher alleges the Diocese of Palm Beach forced him to take a medical leave and has, quoting from the allegations, “ostracized him from the Church.” Father Gallagher requested a medical leave freely on his own and has been deficient in informing the Diocese of his current residence. During this leave he has received full salary, insurance and benefits.

During his hospitalization, Bishop Barbarito visited Father Gallagher providing pastoral care and support for a diocesan priest. Father Gallagher was never denied receipt of the Sacraments.

Established Procedures – Creating Safe Environments

The Diocese of Palm Beach, the Catholic Church and Pope Francis recognize the grave harm victims of sexual abuse have endured suffering often at the hands of someone they trusted: someone they had every right to trust: in this particular reference a member of the Catholic priesthood.

As a Catholic Church we apologize for the grave harm that has been inflicted on any victims by clergy or Church personnel. Words alone cannot express our sorrow, shame and disappointment for the past. The Church is indebted to victims of abuse who have come forward. Their witness has allowed the healing process to begin and has made the Church safer for all families.

We pray that victims, all victims of abuse, will find the healing they so richly deserve.

Yet there are those who fail to recognize all the work the Church has done since 2002 to improve how abuse cases are handled and continues to do to this present day and will do in the future.

The Catholic Church in the U.S. has the strongest measures in the world in place for protecting children and young people, including safe environment training for children and adults, background checks and a zero tolerance for sexual abuse.

  • We train everyone to prevent, recognize and report abuse. This includes our clerics, employees and volunteers.
  • We also train children in personal-safety and awareness programs. These programs are done in a classroom setting in all of our diocesan schools, religious education classes and are available online on our website.
  • We provide outreach to those abused.
  • We require background checks of all clerics, employees and volunteers.
  • We report all allegations to the public authorities.
  • We cooperate fully with law enforcement.
  • Our diocese has Diocesan Policies and Codes of Conduct that pertain to the safety of children and young people.
  • We have a Victims’ Assistance Coordinator who provides support and assistance to those abused.

Each year the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops conducts an audit of every diocese to ensure they are following the guidelines of the Bishops’ Charter and its own diocesan policies. The Diocese of Palm Beach is audited every year (13 times to date) and has been found in complete compliance each time. The Diocese has even received commendations for some of the innovative things initiated in this area of creating a safe environment for young people and vulnerable adults.

The Diocese of Palm Beach’s Office of Safe Environments conducts the VIRTUS Program “Protecting God’s Children” Workshops for all those who work with or come in contact with young people as well as any adults wishing to attend. They also provide education to all students in the Diocese’s parochial schools and parish religious education classes.

Nationally, well more than 2.5 million people active in the church – clergy, vowed religious, lay ministers, teachers, coaches, administrators, volunteers and parishioners – have been trained to recognize and respond to signs of inappropriate behavior, thus preventing abuse. Programs like these give us the tools we need to protect children and combat abuse, equipping the Church to remain a powerful force for good. All 198 dioceses and archdioceses in the U.S. (100%) have adopted the bishop’s charter.

In the Diocese of Palm Beach since 2002:

  • 30,000 clergy, religious and lay people have been through the background screening process.
  • 30,000 have completed the training of the VIRTUS “Protecting God’s Children” workshop.
  • Every 5 years those who have been background screened are screened again.

All VIRTUS Workshops are available for anyone to attend. The schedule is listed on the diocesan website along with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Code of Conduct. The website also lists all the other programs and workshops the diocesan Office of Safe Environments provides to children and young people to keep them safe. There are parental tips on internet and texting and more. The diocesan website is www.diocesepb.org Look under the Offices button and then select from the drop down menu Safe Environments.  You can also call the diocesan Office of Safe Environments at 561-775-9500.

Additionally the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops has similar information on its website plus more resources, videos and information for parents. You can find it at www.usccb.org Look under the Issues and Action button and then select from the drop down menu Child & Youth Protection.

Pope Francis:

Sexual abuse is an issue we’ve heard Pope Francis discuss and we are encouraged and follow the example set by our Holy Father. When in the U.S. last fall, Pope Francis met with victims of clergy abuse and told them “Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered. You are precious children of God who should always expect our protection, our care and our love.”

Pope Francis also has acted on the issue. Last year he formed the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. And this past summer he created a tribunal for bishop negligence in clergy sexual abuse cases.

The Diocese of Palm Beach wishes to assure the faith community we take all allegations of sexual abuse very seriously and we have strong procedures in place that are followed by the administration offices of the diocese.

It is most regrettable the hurt which this current distressing matter has caused our faith family, and once again to the entire parish family of Holy Name of Jesus and the family involved in the original incident. The Diocese of Palm Beach asks for prayers for all involved, including mercy and prayers for Father Gallagher. We greatly appreciate those who have offered their support and prayers to the diocese during this disappointing period of time.”

1 Response to “Priest sues diocese; alleges persecution for reporting abuse” & related articles

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