Clergy Abuse in Richmond: Father Thomas Sykes
Breit Cantor Grana Buckner—September 28, 2020
Americans live in a country that demands justice when someone knowingly inflicts harm on another – especially a child. Yet one alleged child abuser maintained a position of authority in the Richmond community, serving in a parish even after he faced multiple allegations of sexual abuse against children.
When parents of a 16-year-old boy alleged Father Thomas Sykes had molested their son, the priest was transferred from the Diocese of Orlando (where the abuse occurred) to the Catholic Diocese of Richmond in 1976. More sexual abuse allegations against Father Sykes surfaced in 1987 by a man who reported that the priest abused both him and his brother. His brother died by suicide.
“As kids, we both sought guidance and counsel from Father Sykes as our trusted priest, and instead, he sexually abused us,” the victim’s statement reads. “My brother hanged himself from a tree in his front yard because he couldn’t cope with what Sykes did to us anymore.”
The Diocese of Orlando agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the man in 1994, but it later reneged on a promise to pay for ongoing psychological therapy. The victim filed a breach of contract lawsuit in 2011 in an effort to continue therapy to manage his trauma.
Yet it wasn’t until 2019 that Father Sykes’ name appeared on the Diocese of Richmond’s list of clergy who had been credibly accused of sex abuse of minors.
“The names were added after additional information was brought forward and a review was completed in consultation with the Diocesan Office of Safe Environment and the Diocesan Review Board,” according to an official Diocese statement.
Richmond Bishop Rev. Barry C. Knestout claimed that publishing the names of six molesters would “help bring about healing to those who have experienced abuse in the Church.” But the publication of his name as a sex offender occurred 17 years after Father Sykes’ death in 2002.
How many of Virginia’s youths were sexually assaulted remains unknown. Decades-old sexual abuse reports continue to be fielded and assessed. Where does that leave victims who have yet to come forward?
Known Locations of Clergy Abuse by Father Thomas Sykes
If You Are A Silent Victim, Contact a Richmond Clergy Abuse Attorney Today
Of the six names published as credible child molesters by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, five are deceased and the other is unknown. Our only option is to bring the church into court with determined civil litigation. Suing the clergy is not about garnering large monetary settlements. It’s about exacting long-overdue justice. If you are among the thousands of silent victims, please call us for a confidential consultation.
By Courtney Sweasy