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    Diocese: Deceased priest suspected of molesting kids

    By STEPHEN NOHLGREN, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 15, 2002

    DALLAS -- The Diocese of St. Petersburg on Friday revealed that a priest who now deceased is among those suspected of molesting children.

    The priest, who has not been publicly named, molested at least one child in the past, Bishop Robert Lynch said Friday.

    One victim has come forward and been found to be credible. The church wants to name the priest so other potential victims will feel free to come forward, Lynch said.

    Right now, however, the only known victim has asked that the priest's name be kept secret because the priest was closely connected to the victim's family and naming him could point to the victim's identity.

    "We are working on that," Lynch said Friday at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas. Lynch said he expected to publicly identify the priest soon.

    On Thursday, Lynch revealed that seven priests who had molested children had been identified during his tenure with the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

    Other than the dead priest, six have already been named in news reports. They are:

    Richard Allen, pastor of St. Matthew's Catholic Church in Largo, who resigned April 26 after a complaint surfaced that he molested a child in the 1970s while at a church in St. Petersburg.

    Robert Schaeufele, who was a priest at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Pasco County and eight other area churches. He resigned in April after being accused of sexual misconduct. He is in the Pinellas County Jail, awaiting trial on sexual battery charges.

    James E. Russo, who resigned as pastor of St. Michael's the Archangel Catholic Church in Clearwater in January 1997 after an "episode of misconduct" involving a minor was revealed.

    William Lau, then pastor of Blessed Trinity in St. Petersburg, who resigned in 1996 after Lynch learned that Lau engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor several years earlier.

    Former Bishop J. Keith Symons, who resigned as bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach in 1998 after admitting he sexually molested five boys 25 years earlier. (Lynch was appointed apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Palm Beach, while remaining the bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.)

    Rocco Charles D'Angelo, who spent 23 years as a priest at three Tampa Bay area churches, was accused of assaulting a boy in 1967, before his tenure in the Tampa Bay area. D'Angelo admitted abusing that boy and three others but was never charged. D'Angelo retired in 1993.

    Earlier news accounts also included Simeon Gardner, pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Lutz, who resigned in 1996 after it was discovered he diverted at least $200,000 in church money to a man with whom he had been sexually involved. Gardner was not included in Lynch's count of seven priests.

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