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Another Priest Caught Up in Scandal

By Jon Wilson
St. Petersburg Times
October 3, 1996

St. Petersburg - The Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, stunned this week by disclosures of two priests leading double lives, got more troubling news Wednesday.

The Rev. William Lau, formerly the pastor at Blessed Trinity Church in St. Petersburg, resigned this year after Bishop Robert Lynch received word that Lau had engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor several years ago.

No criminal charges were filed, and Lau, 46, has never been charged with a crime in Florida, records show.

"We had a complaint," said Lynch. "(The incident) was a number of years ago."

The disclosure comes in the same week the diocese announced that one priest was secretly married and that another gave church money to a man with whom he was having an affair.

The latest case came to light when Lynch responded to a reporter's questions after a caller to the Times said the priest had been named in a sexual incident.

The bishop said he asked Lau to resign his pastorate. Lau left for counseling in June when 22 other priests were reassigned for a variety of reasons. He had been at Blessed Trinity since 1987.

Lynch said an adult reported the misconduct, but he would not discuss specifics of the incident, whether the minor was a boy or girl or why the accusations took so long to surface. He said it was a "borderline case" involving an older teenager. He said it took place in the St. Petersburg Diocese outside the Blessed Trinity parish.

The diocese oversees 73 parishes in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

Lau currently is at St. Luke Institute in Suitland, Md.

"He is away for a long period of evaluation and assessment," said Lynch. St. Luke is a facility that treats clergy with various disorders, including sexual misconduct, alcoholism, drug dependency and overeating.

Lau could not be reached there. The Rev. Steve Rossetti, a spokesman for St. Luke, said it is a violation of Maryland privacy law even to confirm that a person is being treated at the institute.

Lynch said it is unlikely Lau would be reassigned as a parish priest after his counseling is finished.

"I would never reassign a priest who either has, or is likely to, sexually abuse a child without assurance from a trusted treatment center that there would not be a repeat" incident, Lynch said. "And that priest would also would have to be open with his (new) parish" about the past, he said.

Among projects Lau guided while at Blessed Trinity were inclusion of girls as altar servers and construction at the church of a new courtyard and fountain, which he envisioned as a community gathering spot.

Blessed Trinity parishioners expressed surprise upon hearing why their former pastor had left.

"He was a wonderful pastor," said Lionel Roberts, a deacon at the church for 12 years. "Blessed Trinity looks the way it does because of him. The whole layout is very fastidious, very detail-oriented. It's wonderful. And he was a wonderful pastor.

"I am in the dark as to whatever happened. We were as surprised as, I suppose, many people were to hear these things."

 
 

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