Anglican Watch recently received a trove of information on convicted sex offender and former Episcopal priest William J. Smith, whom we previously covered. While some of the information is unconfirmed, and thus we are not publishing it, and we have not received a response from the Old Catholic Bishop of Florida about the possible role of Smith in the church, we believe it is important to raise the possibility that Smith is secretly active in the Old Catholic Church in the area.
Specifically, Smith is known to live in Clearwater Florida, and we are told that he is active in the Old Catholic Church in the area.
In reviewing the diocesan website, we see no mention of Smith. Nor do we see information about an abbey, which would be consistent with his past practice of setting himself up as an “abbot.” But we do see something that sets alarm bells ringing, which is that there are other clergy, not listed, who are “known to the bishop in confidence.” That begs the question: Outside of China and a few other repressive regimes, why would anyone be a priest in secret? Could it be that the bishop is trying an end-run around the Florida sex offender reporting laws? And where is Smith getting the money to pay rent for a home valued at approximately $330,000?
It’s also important to remember that there is an important distinction between confidentiality and secrecy in church. Confidentiality is appropriate and sometimes essential in a healthy faith community. Secrecy, on the other hand, erodes accountability, engenders distrust, and tears apart communities. It’s also a major warning sign. If, for example, someone tells a child or other vulnerable person, “This is our secret,” it is almost certain abuse is occurring.
So, given that Smith is still seen wandering around in clericals, we call upon the Old Catholic Diocese to:
- List all of its clergy.
- Disclose any known misconduct by priests, bishops, or lay leaders.
- Remove any person convicted of sexual abuse from ministry and prohibit them from being alone with minors, the elderly, or other vulnerable populations.
- Expressly state whether William J. Smith has any role in the diocese or its programs.
Given Smith’s propensity for adopting fictitious names, we also note that the closest Old Catholic Church is Holy Spirit, in Safety Harbor. The church is just 18 miles from Smith’s last reported address, which per the FL sex offenders registry is 3001 Covewood Pl, Clearwater, FL 33761-4306. We also note that nine other registered sex offenders live within a one-mile radius of Smith.
Until we get further information on Smith’s whereabouts and the identity of the “secret priests” in the Old Catholic Church in Florida, the following photos and documents may be helpful. All involved in ordaining a sexual predator deserve to be called to account for their conduct. Yes, Jesus welcomed the tax collector and the outcast, but nowhere do we hear that he put sexual predators in positions of authority.
It’s also noteworthy that Smith is just over a mile away from the Chi Chi Rodriquez Academy, 1.7 miles from Curlew-Creek Elementary School, 2.8 miles from Palm Harbor Middle School, 1.3 miles from Countryside High School, and .9 miles from Guardian Angels Catholic School.
Also telling is Smith’s Facebook page, filled with Golden Retrievers, sunlight and warmth. But anyone capable of the actions for which Smith has been convicted is hardly an angel of light or life. Recall: five counts of sexual assault of male minors and nude photos of male campers at an Episcopal camp. In other words, this guy is one sick puppy.
Parents and churchgoers, beware!