Joseph Keith Symons (born October 14, 1932) was a Catholic bishop in Florida whose 1998 resignation ignited the Palm Beach sex abuse scandal.
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. Symons admitted to sexually abusing five boys earlier in his career, and resigned his office in 1998.
Symons was born in Champion Township, Michigan on October 14, 1932. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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."
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.