Joseph Keith Symons

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His Excellency, The Most Reverend
Joseph Keith Symons
Bishop Emeritus of Palm Beach
Archdiocese Miami
Diocese Palm Beach
Appointed June 12, 1990
Installed July 31, 1990
Term ended June 2, 1998
Predecessor Thomas Vose Daily
Successor Anthony O'Connell
Ordination May 18, 1958
Consecration March 19, 1981
by William Thomas Larkin, Edward A. McCarthy, and Thomas Joseph McDonough
Personal details
Born (1932-10-14) October 14, 1932 (age 85)
Champion, Michigan
Previous post Auxiliary Bishop of St. Petersburg
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Styles of
Joseph Keith Symons
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Bishop

Joseph Keith Symons (born October 14, 1932) is a retired Catholic bishop in Florida whose 1998 resignation ignited the Palm Beach sex abuse scandal.[1][2]

Symons was ordained a bishop in 1981, and went on to serve the Diocese of St. Petersburg, the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, and the Diocese of Palm Beach.[3] Symons admitted to sexually abusing five boys earlier in his career, and resigned his office in 1998.[1]


Symons was born in Champion Township, Michigan on October 14, 1932.[3] He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of St. Augustine in Florida on May 18, 1958.

Symons was named the Titular Bishop of Sigus and the Auxiliary Bishop of St. Petersburg in Florida by Saint John Paul II on January 16, 1981.[3] He was consecrated by Bishop William Thomas Larkin of St. Petersburg on March 19, 1981. Archbishops Edward Anthony McCarthy of Miami and Thomas Joseph McDonough of Louisville were the co-consecrators.[3]

Bishop Symons was transferred to the See of Pensacola-Tallahassee on October 4, 1981 and installed as the second bishop of the diocese on November 8, 1983.[3] He was then transferred to the See of Palm Beach in Florida on June 12, 1990 and installed as the second bishop of that diocese on July 31, 1990.[3]

In 1991, Bishop Symons controversially authorized the filming of the rite of exorcism performed by the Rev. James J. LeBar and other priests on a 16-year-old girl identified only as "Gina". The footage of the exorcism was then publicly broadcast on ABC's 20/20 TV program. Symons explained that he hoped that the broadcasting would help "counteract diabolical activities around us."[4]

Symons resigned as bishop of Palm Beach on June 2, 1998 after admitting that he had sexually abused five teens when he was a priest.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rozsa, Lori; Witt, April (June 2, 1998). "Catholic Bishop Resigns after Admitting to Sexual Abuse of Children". Miami Herald. 
  2. ^ a b Navarro, Mireya (June 4, 1998). "Parish Seeks to Salve Hurts From Bishop's Molestations". New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Bishop Joseph Keith Symons". Retrieved July 28, 2011. 
  4. ^ Steinfels, Peter (1991-04-04). "Exorcism, Filmed With Priest's Consent, to Be Shown on TV". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-12-29. 

External links[edit]

Episcopal succession[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Thomas Vose Daily
Bishop of Palm Beach
Succeeded by
Anthony O'Connell
Preceded by
René Henry Gracida
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Succeeded by
John Mortimer Smith
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of St. Petersburg
Succeeded by