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Date of Issue: March 04, 2009

Diocese investigation continues

The Diocese of Venice investigation of a priest who has served at a Holmes Beach church remains open.

The Rev. Jean Ronald Joseph ministered at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach until last August, when the diocese informed him of a complaint accusing the priest of committing sexual misconduct 15 years ago with a teen member of a youth group in Naples.

Joseph appeared at a public forum in Holmes Beach in late January to deny the allegation and maintain his innocence.

But the complaint, deemed “credible” in a diocese review, remains under investigation and Joseph remains on leave of his ministerial duties.

“The investigation is on-going, and these things take time,” said diocese spokesperson Adela Gonzales White. “Father Joseph continues to receive his salary and benefits.”

Joseph, however, said Saturday that while he receives his salary, there are no benefits. “I have no stipend, no food allowance, no residence provided, and I am paying myself for the health care that was formerly provided to me by the diocese.”

Diocese officials could not provide a timeline for bringing the investigation to a close.

Meanwhile, a benefit will take place for Joseph at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria.

Proceeds from the event will help Joseph with medical and legal costs, as well as with travel to Haiti to work on completing the orphanage there established by the Ministry of Presence, a group he founded in the States to aid the poor in Haiti.

Live music by Jack Elka and the generosity of Sandbar owner Ed Chiles will allow the majority of the event proceeds “to benefit Father Ron.” An auction of prizes also is being organized by The Islander for the benefit.

Tickets — $50 — to the event are available at The Islander, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, and Sato Real Estate, 519 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.