Jesuit High Ex-Teacher Accused of Sex Abuse

By Graham Brink
St. Petersburg Times [Florida]
May 10, 2002

For the third time in as many weeks, a former teacher at the elite Jesuit High School has become the focus of a sexual abuse investigation.

The New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus announced Thursday that a preliminary investigation determined that a "credible" accusation had been brought against Thomas J. Hidding, a priest most recently posted in Miami and who also once worked at Sacred Heart Church in Tampa.

The allegation arose this month when a former Jesuit High student lodged a complaint of sexual abuse against Hidding that the student said stemmed from an incident in the early 1980s. Hidding was a regent at the time, preparing for the priesthood and teaching at the school.

Hidding has been removed from active ministry while the investigation continues, said the Rev. Thomas Stahel of the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus, which oversees Jesuit schools.

He would not discuss the details of the allegation.

"Other people may need to come forward with information," Stahel said.

"Either way, I will continue the inquiry with the information available to me now."

Unlike the other two priests recently accused, Hidding is accused in an incident that allegedly occurred while he worked at Jesuit High School. Hidding, 51, could not be reached for comment.

The Rev. Joseph Doyle, Jesuit's president, said Thursday that he would send a letter to the parents of Jesuit students explaining the circumstances. He said the school would cooperate with any investigation, but did not want to comment further.

In late April, Doyle announced that he had fired the Rev. Vincent Orlando after learning the computer and math teacher had been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor 17 years ago in Houston.

The same day, Doyle announced that a former Jesuit principal, the Rev. Thomas Naughton, had been removed earlier this month as a Catholic priest in Orange County, Calif. Naughton, Jesuit's principal from 1969 to 1972, had been accused of sexual misconduct with a youth at Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas in 1978.

Last month, Doyle asked for prayer during a time of "intense pain, sorrow and embarrassment." The school on Himes Avenue averages 675 students a year and boasts a100 percent college acceptance rate for its students. The school has an annual tuition of $7,700.

"There can be no ignoring such misconduct: There will be no coverup," Doyle told the students and staff of Jesuit High when he made the announcements about Orlando and Naughton. "If any one of you has further information that I should know, please be honest and tell me."

Hidding is a graduate of Florida State University, where he earned his bachelor's degree and of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., where he earned his master's of divinity and theology.

He worked as a regent at Jesuit High School from 1980 to 1982 before moving to Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas. He was ordained in 1986 and worked at a campus ministry at Loyola University in New Orleans from 1987 to 1992.

Hidding then came to Sacred Heart Church in downtown Tampa as an associate pastor, where he stayed until 1997 when he took an associate pastor position at Immaculate Conception Church in New Orleans. In 1999, he moved to Gesu Church in Miami.


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