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Sex abuse cases come to light in Venice, Fla., diocese

 |  NCR Today

Three cases of sexual misconduct by clergy have come to light in recent days in the Venice, Fla, diocese.

Two weeks ago, Fr. Bernard Chojnacki, a vicar at a local parish, was arrested for allegedly exposing his genitals to a county sheriff and then grabbing the sheriff's genitals.

Carmelite Fr. William C. Wert, who has been living in a retirement home in the diocese while on a leave of absence, was arrested in February on two counts of committing a sex offense against a victim between the ages of 12 and 15. Shortly after his arrest, authorities filed eight more charges of sex offenses against a minor and lewd and lascivious behavior.

Meanwhile, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Tuesday that a former Catholic high school teacher in the diocese has filed a lawsuit alleging he was fired for raising concerns about a third priest.

Chris Wilson, a former teacher at the diocese's Bishop Verot High School, alleges in the suit that Bishop Frank Dewane had him fired as "punishment, retaliation and a lesson to others similarly situated within the Venice Diocese" after he brought forth concerns that Fr. Cory Mayer was asking teenage girls inappropriate questions while hearing confession.

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Chojnacki, who was arrested June 7, was released from jail on $1,250 bail. The diocese told the Herald-Tribune he is on administrative leave and is staying at another rectory, but has declined to say where it is located.

Wert is in the Sarasota County jail and faces a jury trial in October.

Wilson's lawsuit alleges that Mayer, who visited the school in April, asked at least five teenage girls details about whether they masturbated or had sex.

A diocesan spokesperson told the Herald-Tribune he could not comment on the lawsuit because he had not yet seen it.

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August 15-28, 2014

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