"Jesus am Kreuz, rechts vom Altar" by Amrei-Marie / CC BY-SA 4.0

They were accused of sexually abusing children, now they’re the priest next door

Nov 14, 2019

By Lindsay Schnell and Sam Ruland

John Dagwell said he’s earned the right to live in peace as he tries to put his past behind him.

The former Roman Catholic brother, 75, pleaded guilty in a New Jersey criminal case in 1988 to molesting a student when he taught at a parochial school. His religious order, the Xaverian Brothers, transferred him to the Boston area, where he went to work in a homeless shelter and soon faced new abuse accusations that were never reported to police. Four years later, personnel files from the Boston Archdiocese revealed Dagwell as a clergyman accused of sexual abuse. His name was also included in a list released by the Xaverian Brothers.

Despite his past, Dagwell was never required to register as a sex offender. He moved on to a new life in a new community, a place where children fill the local pool during school vacations and where his history remained a secret from neighbors. He began teaching again, this time at Keiser University, a 16,000-student school based in Fort Lauderdale.

“I’ve stayed away from adolescents. I’ve been trying hard not to put myself in a situation where I was going to be tempted,” Dagwell said recently while sitting in an apartment he shares with his sister. As he spoke, three teddy bears sat on his television and a half-dozen stuffed Disney dolls – Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Jiminy Cricket – were carefully arranged on a China cabinet.

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