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Accuser says she trusted seminarian

By MELIA BOWIE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 4, 2002

TAMPA -- The two women who have made allegations against Father Bob Morris say they're not looking for money. They say they simply want to see him removed from a position of trust.

One had been a troubled teenager who found refuge in the church. The other was a church secretary. Fourteen years later, their allegations have led the Diocese of St. Petersburg to suspend Morris from St. Mary Catholic Church in Lutz.

"I never wanted to tell anybody," said Bridget Watkins Kolodziej, now a 27-year-old Largo homemaker and mother of three. "I didn't think I would be believed."

Back in 1988, she said, she was an outgoing teenager who didn't get along with her parents. So she joined youth groups and softball teams at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Clearwater, 6 miles from her home.

When Morris, then a seminary student, came to spend the summer at St. Catherine's in May 1988, "he was awesome," she said. "He was super nice . . . someone I could trust."

A woman who worked as a church secretary and was a mentor to Kolodziej has also come forward with allegations that the priest made an obscene phone call to her on Memorial Day 1989, when she was 29 and he was still a seminarian.

Nancy Ramsey-Tosh, now a community college sociology professor with a doctorate in religious studies, is living in Ventura, Calif., with her daughter and husband. She said she felt compelled to speak when national stories about Catholic priests began to appear. She decided to report her story by sending a press release to TV news stations in California and Florida.

"I think if you know of something going on and you don't speak out you're also guilty," she said.

Morris, 45, has adamantly denied any allegations of misconduct.

"As a seminarian and as a priest, I have never participated in any sexual misconduct with any persons, adult or child," he said last weekend, speaking to his congregation.

Mary Jo Murphy, spokeswoman for the Diocese, said a response team is investigating and may reach a conclusion in two weeks. In the meantime, "both women will be interviewed," she said. Kolodziej's attorney said she is scheduled to meet with team members Monday.

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