A Mississippi man who says he was abused by a Fort Myers priest in the 1960s is suing the Archdiocese of Miami, which at the time included parts of southwestern Florida.
Jimmy Wilkins, 56, says the Rev. Thomas Anglim abused him on "seven to 10 occasions'' when he was a seventh-grader at St. Francis Xavier School in Fort Myers in 1967 and 1968. His complaint, filed Tuesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, names the Diocese of Venice, which includes Manatee as a defendant.
Anglim, who died in Ireland on Jan. 19, was a priest in the Diocese of Venice until 2004. Before becoming pastor of St. Francis Xavier church in 1966, Anglim ministered at St. Mary's in St. Petersburg, Blessed Trinity in Miami Springs, Little Flower in Coral Gables, Holy Rosary in South Miami-Dade and Sacred Heart in Lake Worth.
The Archdiocese of Miami ran the school that Wilkins attended until the Diocese of Venice was created in 1984.
"The Archdiocese of Miami was at the time was responsible for supervising, owning and operating the school. . . . They should have known what was happening to Jimmy when he was a student there," said Wilkins' Miami-based attorney, Jessica Arbour.
A representative for the Archdiocese of Miami directed questions to the Diocese of Venice.
In a statement, Bob Reddy, Diocese of Venice spokesman, said Wilkins brought his allegations to the diocese in August 2008. The statement did not address the substance of Wilkins' accusations.
"At the time of the allegation, Father Anglim was in retirement," the statement said. "He was no longer physically capable of caring for himself, nor was he any longer able to speak."
Officials conducted "a formal review of the information available'' and "then offered Mr. Wilkins counseling and pastoral care, which was accepted . . ."
"Throughout this period, to the present time, the Diocese of Venice has supported the counseling for Mr. Wilkins," Reddy said in the statement.
The statement said the diocese has a "zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct against minors and has a system in place to ensure a safe environment in churches, schools and other Diocesan entities."