3 Allege Abuse by Orlando Priest
Suits Say Assaults Were in '60s, '70s
By Mark I. Pinsky
Orlando Sun Sentinel
December 2, 2005
A woman and two men who say a priest molested them nearly four decades ago sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orlando on Thursday.
The actions bring to eight the number of suits that have accused the Rev. Vernon Uhran of sexual abuse of young people while he was assigned to St. Mary Magdalen parish in Altamonte Springs.
Thursday's filings, each seeking more than $5 million in damages, charge that Uhran, who was removed from the ministry in 1992, engaged in a variety of abusive acts with the minors. One suit accuses him of molesting a 7-year-old girl while she was sleeping on her living-room floor in 1967.
Another suit, by a former altar boy now living in Houston, charged that Uhran began abusing him when he was a freshman at Bishop Moore High School in 1970. The alleged abuse continued for three years, according to the suit.
The suit alleges that another priest, the Rev. David Page, walked in while Uhran was fondling the teen at the St. Mary Magdalen rectory. "Father Page quickly exited the room and shut the door," the suit says.
Page, who is now senior pastor at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Indialantic, strongly denied Thursday that such an incident occurred. He added that while he was at the parish, "there were no rumors or hearsay" about Uhran.
"People who know me can testify that I would never tolerate or turn a blind eye to such behavior," he said.
The third suit was filed by a man who now lives in Melbourne and says Uhran abused him beginning in the summer of 1971 during a cross-country trip to what the priest told parents was "a spiritual retreat." He and the other boys were plied with alcohol and cigarettes, according to the suit.
Randy Means, a spokesman for the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office, said the statute of limitations has long run out for pursuing prosecution in any of the cases. Uhran could not be located for comment Thursday.
In May 2005, the diocese paid $1.5 million to settle complaints against Urhan and another priest by two other men. Three other suits are pending.
Diocesan officials said they had not seen the most recent suits and could not comment on the specifics. However, Bishop Thomas Wenski said in a prepared statement: "We are disappointed and saddened by this news in which we learn of alleged betrayal of trust and the harm caused to the victims."
As in previous suits against Uhran, the most recent filings allege that in 1969, Orlando Bishop William Borders, now retired, received a report from a minor and his mother, a diocesan employee, that Uhran had sexually molested the boy. Uhran was then transferred from parish to parish, the suits claim.
The Orlando Diocese contends that it didn't learn of the abuse until 1992, when Norbert Dorsey, then bishop, removed Uhran from the ministry.
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