False accusation made against Allentown Diocese priest, Berks County District Attorney says
By Tim Darragh
September 12, 2018
|The Rev. David C. Gillis was removed from priestly ministries while the Berks County District Attorney's office investigated an allegation of sexual abuse, which District Attorney John T. Adams said Wednesday was false. |
A sexual abuse allegation against the Rev. David C. Gillis, a Catholic priest who was suspended from ministry last month, is false, Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams said Wednesday.
The Allentown Diocese said Gillis’ suspension was lifted and that he is being returned as a priest in good standing.
Gillis, an Allentown diocesan priest serving in Cocoa Beach, Fla., had been suspended for what the Rev. John Giel, chancellor for canonical affairs for the Orlando Diocese, referred to as an allegation with “at least a semblance of truth.”
It was made Aug. 24 through ChildLine, Pennsylvania’s child abuse hotline, by the father of a woman who said she was sexually abused as a child.
The woman later told investigators she was not abused by Gillis and detectives could find no evidence to substantiate the allegation, Adams said in a news release.
“The father did not have any basis to name Rev. David C. Gillis, but mentioned him because he was a priest at St. John the Baptist de La Salle School in Shillington, Berks County,” Adams said.
Adams told The Morning Call that the accuser “was in some distress” when she made the allegation. Later, she had “no memory” of making the statement, he said.
“I do believe that at some point she may have been abused, but we have no evidence that she was abused at the hands of a priest,” Adams said.
His office is not pursuing the case, he said, in accord with the woman’s wishes.
Gillis served in the Allentown Diocese from his ordination in 1979 until 2005, when he requested a transfer to Florida, the diocese has said. He was at St. John the Baptist from 1996 to June 2005. Although he has been in Florida for the last 13 years, he is still an Allentown Diocese priest.
A spokesman for the Orlando Diocese was not available for comment Wednesday.
Gillis is not among the 301 priests identified as known or alleged abusers by a recent grand jury investigating six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Allentown.
According to the Allentown Diocese’s statement, Bishop Alfred Schlert suspended Gillis from his priestly duties as soon as he learned of the accusation, but at Adams’ request, did not issue a public comment. The Orlando Diocese announced the news.
“It is unfortunate that the accusation of child sexual abuse against Rev. Gillis was made public by the Diocese of Orlando before the outcome of this investigation could be determined,” Adams said. “These types of investigations are very sensitive in nature. Many times when the accused is publicly mentioned prematurely without any factual basis, it can compromise an investigation.”
In its statement, the Allentown Diocese thanked Adams for his swift response to the charge.
The diocese also said its actions were consistent with its zero-tolerance policy, under which “a priest is immediately removed from ministry pending an investigation, law enforcement is immediately notified, and the diocese addresses the matter with transparency in cooperation with law enforcement.”