Priest from Boca Raton accused of sexually abusing a child

Monsignor Thomas Benestad worked at Ascension Catholic Church in Boca Raton from 2007-2009. (WPEC)

A priest from Boca Raton is named in a newly released grand jury report out of Pennsylvania detailing credible accusations of sexual abuse against 301 priests involving more than 1,000 children.

The grand jury investigated child sex abuse in six dioceses across the state of Pennsylvania, including the Diocese of Allentown which once employed Monsignor Thomas J. Benestad.

According to the report, a "known victim" reported to the Allentown Diocese in 2011 that Benestad sexually abused him from 1981 through 1983.

The victim was nine years old at the time the alleged abuse started, according to the report.

The Diocese then reported the accusations to the Northampton County District Attorney's Office which found the claims to be "credible."

In the report, the "victim" told detectives his first memory of the abuse happened at St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church in Easton, Pennsylvania. A nun pulled him out of class for wearing shorts, which violated the rules.

The boy said Benestad told him not being dressed in proper attire was sinful and that he needed to get on his knees and pray.

The boy said that's when Benestad unzipped his pants and told the boy to perform oral sex on him, according to the grand jury report.

The boy did as he was told. The grand jury report also stated Benestad performed oral sex on the boy.

Afterward, the boy claimed Benestad squirted holy water into his mouth to "purify him."

Benestad, according to the grand jury report, denied these accusations and others levied against him.

"The Diocese elected to rely on Benestad's word rather than the word of the victims and the determinations of law enforcement," the grand jury report stated.

The secret panel said no attempt was made to remove Benestad from the church and he was allowed to retire and live in Boca Raton where he assists with a local parish.

The grand jury report said Benestad took a job at Ascension Catholic Church in Boca Raton in 2007 before retiring in 2009 as Pastor Emeritus at Notre Dame of Bethlehem.

The grand jury documents show a priest with a last known address in St. Augustine, Father Richard Guiliani, is also among those accused of child sex abuse. He's among 17 priests who moved, retired or was re-assigned to Florida.

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