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  Jesuit High Teacher Fired Amid Misconduct Claim

By Melanie Ave
St. Petersburg Times
April 24, 2002

Tampa -- The Rev. Joseph Doyle stood before hundreds of teenage boys at Jesuit High School on Tuesday morning with bad news about a current teacher and a former principal.

The sexual abuse scandal involving Catholic priests nationwide had hit home at the elite 103-year-old high school.

Doyle, Jesuit's president, announced that he had fired the Rev. Vincent Orlando on Monday after learning the computer and math teacher has been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor 17 years ago in Houston.

Orlando

There was more. Doyle also announced that a former Jesuit principal, the Rev. Thomas Naughton, had been removed earlier this month as a Catholic priest in Orange County, California.

Naughton, Jesuit's principal from 1969 to 1972, has been accused of sexual misconduct with a youth at Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas in 1978.

Doyle, who called it the most painful address he has given, asked for anyone with information to come to him.

"There can be no ignoring such misconduct: There will be no cover up," he said. "If any one of you has further information that I should know, please be honest and tell me."

After Doyle read his statement, some teachers began to cry. Students were quiet.

"It was very sad for me to have to do this to anybody," Doyle said. "But it's something I'm required to do."

Doyle got a call Monday from officials with the New Orleans Province of the Jesuits, which oversees Jesuit schools, telling him that someone came forward Sunday afternoon to make an accusation against Orlando.

The person had been a minor at the time of the 1985 incident, but was not a student at the school where Orlando was teaching, said the Rev. Tom Stahel, spokesman with the New Orleans Province. Stahel would not give any details about the incident nor the person making the complaint. He also declined to give any information regarding Naughton.

Stahel did say that neither Orlando nor Naughton has been convicted of sex crimes. But, he said, "We are speaking of credible accusations."

The St. Petersburg diocese has removed Orlando's status as a priest. The New Orleans religious order has not made a final decision about either man's status as a Jesuit priest.

Orlando, 60, began teaching at all-male Jesuit High two years ago and was known around the school as a competent and demanding teacher who helped with the cross-country track team and the yearbook staff.

He was principal of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School in Houston from 1979 to 1984 and continued as a teacher there until 2000. Before that, he taught at Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas.

Orlando, who lives on-site at the Himes Avenue school, could not be reached for comment.

Letters about the situation were mailed home to parents Monday.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Greg Holder, who has a son at the school, said he was shocked and dismayed by the allegation. But he said he supports the school's immediate removal of Orlando.

"The issue is really safety," he said. "As we've seen all too often, coverups do no one any good. The bottom line is get to the truth."

During Doyle's announcement to students and teachers, he asked for prayer during this time of "intense pain, sorrow and embarrassment."

Doyle later said he is unaware of any allegations of misconduct against Orlando from Tampa students.

Several students said they were unsure what to think.

"I was pretty surprised," said 18-year-old senior Howard Feld, who has taken computer classes with Orlando for the last two years. "I really liked Father Orlando as a teacher. He just got the subject material really well and he made it quite enjoyable."

Senior Tyler Dikman, 17, said the allegation seemed out of character for a teacher he described as always willing to go the extra mile.

"I don't think there's any kind of proof as of yet," said Dikman, who took algebra with Orlando last year. "I never, ever judge any person until the facts are in."

Alumni of the school said they are not worried about the scandal hurting Jesuit High's reputation or its enrollment, which averages 675 students a year. The school, which has an annual tuition of $7,700, has a 100 percent college acceptance rate for its students.

Each year, the school typically receives double the number of applicants it can accept as its freshman class.

"Jesuit has such an impeccable image and reputation," said accountant Paul Ambraz, a 1968 alum whose two sons graduated from Jesuit. "Even if (Orlando is) guilty of a crime, the school will certainly survive. At the same time, it doesn't make me feel any better."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Melanie Ave can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or melanie@sptimes.com.

 
 

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