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  Diocese: Long-Ago Child Abuse Reported

By Christopher Sherman
Orlando Sentinel (Florida)
May 2, 2005

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orlando alerted parishioners Sunday in three area churches that allegations of child sexual abuse were recently made against two former priests.

Hubert Reason and Vernon Uhran served at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs in the 1960s and 1970s, though not at the same time.

Diocese spokeswoman Carol Brinati said allegations against both priests came to light in April. Reason, who died in 1984, is accused of abuse in the early- to mid-1960s, while the allegations against Uhran concern the early 1970s. No other details of the allegations were available.

Somber parishioners left St. Mary Magdalen church Sunday evening after a priest read a letter from the bishop announcing the allegations at the end of Mass.

Outside, a woman hushed her child so she could hear the Rev. Charlie Mitchell urging anyone who knew about the allegations to come forward.

And while many of the parishioners came to this parish decades after Reason and Uhran had left, the news of allegations of past misconduct deflated a jubilant Mass.

"It cast a pall over the parish when Father Charlie read that letter. It's sad, and my heart breaks," said Phillip Gaziano, 56. "To hear that, it's as if a bit of the spirit has left us. But the church is strong. We're going to get over this."

Reason served at St. Mary Magdalen from 1959 to 1965, then part of the Diocese of St. Augustine, before moving to the Diocese of St. Petersburg. He left the diocese in 1978 and died at age 60.

The St. Petersburg diocese announced allegations of child sexual abuse against Reason in 2002. Brinati said she was not familiar with the 2002 allegations, but they were not the same as those that spurred the Orlando diocese's announcement Sunday.

Uhran, 65, served at St. Mary Magdalen and Bishop Moore High School from 1969 to 1973, Church of the Resurrection and Santa Fe High School in Lakeland from 1973 to 1976 and St. Theresa Catholic Church in Belleview from 1976 to 1981. A decade in the Dominican Republic followed before brief stints at Melbourne Central Catholic and the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Former Orlando Bishop Norbert Dorsey removed Uhran from the ministry in 1992 after an allegation of sexual abuse.

The Orlando diocese on April 27 notified the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office of the allegations against Uhran, Brinati said.

The State Attorney's Office forwarded the information to the Altamonte Springs Police Department, Brinati said. Lt. Chuck Stansel said although Altamonte Springs police know the identity of the complainant, no one had come forward to file a complaint with his department.

"As soon as they come forward, we can start an investigation," Stansel said.

The allegations were first brought to the diocese's sexual-abuse response team April 20, Brinati said.

"That these allegations of abuse occurred more than 30 years ago does not lessen the horror we feel at this betrayal of trust and the harm caused to victims," Bishop Thomas Wenski said in a prepared statement.

The diocese has not had contact with Uhran since he was removed in 1992, Brinati said. Uhran could not be reached for comment.

The diocese encouraged anyone aware of sexual abuse by the former priests to contact law enforcement and the diocese's victim assistance coordinator, Sister Lucy Vazquez.

In December, an Indiana priest who had served at three Central Florida churches was placed on administrative leave by the Diocese of Gary, Ind. after a local man accused him of sexual abuse.

Orlando police determined that the time frame of the alleged abuse exceeded the statute of limitations. In January, the man filed a civil lawsuit against the Rev. Richard Emerson and the Orlando diocese.

A month later, Emerson denied the allegations through his attorney.

Parishioners in 3 Catholic churches are told about the recent allegations.

CORRECTION-DATE: May 4, 2005

CORRECTION:

An article on Page B3 of Monday's Local & State section about recent child-sexual-abuse allegations against two former Roman Catholic priests may have left unclear at which three churches a letter from the Diocese of Orlando was read at Sunday Mass. The letter from Bishop Thomas Wenski was read at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs, Church of the Resurrection in Lakeland and St. Theresa Catholic Church in Belleview, in Marion County.

 
 

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