Former teacher says he was punished for protecting kids
FORT MYERS -- A Southwest Florida catholic high school teacher says he was fired for accusing a priest of asking teenage girls explicit questions during confession. The Catholic Diocese of Venice in Florida disputes those claims, and questions Wilson's motives.
Fomer Bishop Verot teacher Chris Wilson has dedicated the past 20 years of his life to the Catholic Church and its teachings. He tells us the Penn State scandal has opened up new wounds, all while he still struggles with how to feel about the religion he says abandoned him.
"And she said there's a priest who's asking girls if they've masturbate and if they have sex," that's what Wilson says he heard from his female students after they got back from confession. "I knew it was outside the lines. It's even against the churches own law," Chris tells us.
So that day last spring the theology teacher reported the priest to the school, the Diocese of Venice, the Fort Myers police and the Department of Children and Families.
"It was obvious to me the diocese and the school officials wanted nothing to do w my concerns," he laments. The following week, Chris was fired by Bishop Verot's principal. "Mr. Cavell told me plainly you stepped over the line when you called DCF," Chris remembers.
And that's why he filed a lawsuit, claiming he was fired for blowing the whistle. All of this leaving Chris at odds with his beliefs: "I believe in the mission of the church, but sadly the institution needs to be questioned by the people."
And Chris tells us he wasn't surprised about the Penn State scandal: "Both the Penn State situation and what happened at Bishop Verot could have been alleviated by following guideless."
The Catholic Diocese of Venice in Florida says Wilson is a disgruntled former employee who has a personal axe to grind.
In a statement released to Fox 4 Friday, the Diocese said Wilson was “turned down for the position of principal of Bishop Verot, and since that time showed himself to be disgruntled and unsatisfied with the administration. He even admitted to breaking school policies unrelated to the claims in his lawsuit.”
The Diocese also takes issue with comparing Wilson’s allegations with the situation at Penn State University.
“First, at Penn State, the current claims are that the administration did not coordinate with the local authorities. When contacted by DCF, the Diocese immediately did everything possible to bring all information to the table and ensured the safety and wellbeing of all students. DCF later found no reason to pursue this case. Anyone who feels they have been the victim of a crime should call the police immediately. The Diocese of Venice continues to make its Victim Assistance Coordinator available to anyone who feels they have been abused,” said Diocese spokesperson William Atwell.
“Secondly, the Penn State coach is alleged to have committed crime. While Chris Wilson filed suit—a suit that has since been dismissed—no crime was committed at Bishop Verot. In fact, the police were apparently contacted by Mr. Wilson and he was told that there was no reason to pursue the matter—just like DCF. And third, the alleged crimes at Penn State happened in private. Confessions at Bishop Verot are voluntary and public, that is, in the view of teachers, priests and other waiting students, but are conducted such that the penitent has assurance of confidentiality. ” Atwell said.
As further proof of their case the Diocese cites DCF, law enforcement and the courts as saying there are no grounds to pursue the matter any further.