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  Jesuit Ousts Teacher after Fast Investigation

By Michelle Bearden
Tampa Tribune [Florida]
April 24, 2002

Misconduct allegation is credible, diocese says

The Rev. Joseph Doyle stood before more than 600 students Tuesday at Jesuit High School, making an announcement he dreaded: A popular math and computer science teacher was caught in the burgeoning Catholic Church sex scandal.

The Rev. Vincent Orlando, 60, was removed from his duties Monday at the historic all-male school after Jesuit officials learned he was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor in 1985 in Texas.

"We've had better days," said Doyle, the school's principal. "We've been shocked and saddened since finding out about this. But it's my job to nurture them through good times and bad."

The announcement was met with silence.

Derick Ostrenko, a 15-year-old sophomore and a member of the computer club led by Orlando last year, said everyone was quiet after Doyle delivered the news. For the rest of the day, he said, the mood was somber on campus.

"Most people liked him," he said of Orlando. "The way he taught, you could really understand him."

Ostrenko also is a member of the cross-country team, which Orlando helped coach.

Coach Mike Boza said, "He is one of my best friends and it's hard not to say something positive about him.

"The cross-country kids are very upset right now," he said. "They feel so badly for him as a person. And all we are seeing right now is his pain. He will be missed very much."

Orlando taught at Jesuit for two years. After the accuser came forward Sunday at the Jesuit's Provincial office in New Orleans, the religious order acted swiftly with its investigation.

Once officials determined the allegation was credible, they notified Jesuit High School and Bishop Robert Lynch of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, because the school is in the diocese. Lynch removed Orlando's permission to function as a priest Monday.

"There Will Be No Coverup' A letter was sent out that evening to Jesuit parents. The students learned of it when Doyle called the special assembly Tuesday morning.

"Although this is the most painful address I have ever given, I told you I would always be honest," he said. "There can be no ignoring such misconduct and there will be no coverup."

He ended the session asking them to "pray for our school and these difficult times we're going through."

Doyle said he urged the students to come forward if they had any concerns. By day's end, he had only received support and encouragement.

"They picked up on my own embarrassment," Doyle said. "But this isn't the time to shrink or run away. I have to hold my head high for the students."

It's the second round of bad news Doyle has faced in recent days.

Late last week, Doyle learned that the Rev. Thomas Naughton, who served as Jesuit's principal from 1969-72, was relieved of his duties in California pending an investigation of an accusation while he was stationed in Dallas in 1978. It was the first time the New Orleans province had received any complaints of sexual misconduct by Naughton with a minor.

Doyle said neither incident occurred in Tampa. The incident involving Orlando also allegedly took place in Dallas, when Orlando worked at Jesuit College Preparatory School before being assigned to a school in Houston.

Orlando, ordained in 1974, transferred to Tampa in 2000 from Strake Jesuit Preparatory in Houston.

The Rev. Tom Stahel, a spokesman for the Jesuits' New Orleans Province, said the incident did not take place on the Dallas school campus. He would not say whether the accuser was a student at the time.

"We're protecting the confidentiality of both parties," he said. He also would not say where Orlando is at this time, only that he's been removed from his priestly duties.

Police are not involved, he said.

Some Feel Betrayed, Others Offer Support Maria Rivera of Apollo Beach said her 17-year-old son, whom she would not identify, won't return to school.

"He's having a very hard time with this," said Rivera, a lifelong Catholic. "He knew Father Orlando, as I did. He was well-liked, friendly and we trusted him."

But now her son feels betrayed. The escalating scandal is hurting "the church, the community and our children."

"I don't attend church anymore, and I don't volunteer," Rivera said. "I grew up in Catholic school and so did my husband. We thought it was the best thing for our children. I don't believe that anymore."

Jesuit plays a big role in the life of Deanne Roberts, a single mother who runs an advertising agency and serves on the school's board of trustees. Her brother is a Jesuit graduate, and she was a cheerleader for the school while attending Academy of Holy Names in the late 1960s.

Her son Kirk, a freshman at Georgia Tech, is a Jesuit graduate. And she hopes her sixth-grade son will be a Jesuit Tiger one day.

"Of course I'm shocked and angry. I trust that school, I love that school," Roberts said. "But Father Doyle handled it in a forthright and honest way.

"That's how Jesuits are - their communication is open and direct."

Roberts points out the Jesuit record in the community: Many of the area's prominent professionals are graduates of the school, founded in 1899. Students are expected to be involved in extensive community service. And last year, 100 percent of the graduating class was accepted into college.

"This is something that happened almost 20 years ago, in another place," she said. "I think the boys have enough respect for Father Doyle [to come forward] if anything else has happened."

Reporters Philip Morgan, Cloe Cabrera and Bill Ward, and researcher Buddy Jaudon contributed to this report.
Reporter Michelle Bearden can be reached at (813) 259-7613 or mbearden@tampatrib.com.


 
 

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