Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Communications Department - Archdiocese of Miami
Statement of the Archdiocese of Miami regarding lawsuit filed by attorney Jeff Herman
Miami…(May 20, 2015) Today, attorney Jeffrey Herman brought forth a lawsuit alleging of inappropriate sexual behavior by Father Harry Ringenberger, 82, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Miami.
The lawsuit states that in 1989 the Archdiocese of Miami was informed of an allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior by Father Ringenberger. This one statement in the lawsuit is true.
In 1989, upon learning of an accusation of sexual misbehavior by Father Ringenberger, the Archdiocese of Miami reported it to the City of Pembroke Pines Police Department who in turn submitted it the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. In addition, it was reported to the State of Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) which is now State of Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). At the time, the Archdiocese of Miami fully cooperated with all investigating agencies.
Archbishop Edward McCarthy received a letter from Pembroke Pines Mayor Charles W. Flanagan dated September 29, 1989 which stated “The City of Pembroke Pines Police Department has been investigating these accusations. Our Police Chief, John Lombardo, has informed me that the Police Department’s investigation has been completed with no evidence of criminal wrongdoings. Our report was submitted to the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. Chief Lombardo was informed on Wednesday, September 27, 1989 by Barbara Mitchell, an Assistant State Attorney, that there was insufficient information to constitute any criminal activity on behalf of the subject, Father Harry Ringenberger.”
The mayor added “After several weeks of investigation by a law enforcement agency and the State Attorney’s Office, Police Chief Lombardo advised me that the charges and accusations made against Father Ringenberger will not be pursued.”
The Archdiocese of Miami also received a copy of a letter from HRS dated October 2, 1989 in which B.J. Cosson stated that “the department has completed its investigation and has classified the report as UNFOUNDED. An unfounded report is defined by Chapter 415, Florida Statutes, as one in which a protective investigation revealed no indication of abuse or neglect. No one named in this report will be identified as an abuser.” The letter was signed by B. J. Cosson, Director, Florida Protective Services System.
Once the investigations were concluded, Father Ringenberger requested a sabbatical to deal with health and family issues. Upon his return he served as a parochial vicar at St. Pius X until his retirement in 2014. Due to failing health, Father Ringenberger often resides with family members.
If today’s accusation announced by Jeffrey Herman against Father Ringenberger is a new one, the Archdiocese of Miami will immediately follow its Safe Environment Policy which offers pastoral and psychological counseling to the alleged victim; in addition, this allegation is reported to the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. This allegation is also reviewed by the ADOM Review Board consisting of lay community leaders and a member of the clergy.
The Archdiocese of Miami takes the opportunity to reach out to anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and encourage the reporting of it by contacting the Archdiocese of Miami Abuse Hotline at 1-866 802-2873; Department of Children and Families (DCF) at 1-800-962-2873 or contact your local law enforcement agency.
The Archdiocese of Miami