Priest Accused of Abusing Central Florida Boy Resigns
He Was Officially with the Gary, Ind., Diocese but Had Asked for an Orlando Assignment
By Christopher Sherman
January 7, 2006
A Roman Catholic priest accused of abusing a Central Florida boy during the late 1980s and early 1990s has resigned from his Indiana parish.
The Rev. Richard Emerson resigned from Notre Dame Parish in Michigan City, the Rev. Brian Chadwick, spokesman for the Diocese of Gary, Ind., said Thursday. The news was also delivered to diocesan priests through a letter from Bishop Dale J. Melczek.
The Diocese of Gary placed Emerson on administrative leave in December 2004 after a local man accused him of sexual abuse. Emerson had served at three Central Florida churches between 1987 and 1991. Orlando police determined that the time frame of the alleged abuse exceeded the statute of limitations.
In January 2005, the man filed a civil lawsuit against Emerson and the Orlando diocese. A month later, Emerson denied the allegations through an attorney.
The man knew Emerson from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Orlando, where the priest served from 1987 to 1990. Emerson also served in St. Peter's Catholic Church in DeLand and Holy Family Catholic Church in Orlando in 1990 and 1991.
Joe Saunders, who represents the man, said his investigator had not found Emerson to serve him with the lawsuit. Since filing the original lawsuit, another man who said he was abused by Emerson has come forward, Saunders said. A lawsuit is expected to be filed on his behalf in the coming months, Saunders said.
Throughout his years in Central Florida, Emerson was officially with the Indiana diocese and ultimately returned there in 1991. He had asked for the temporary Orlando assignment to be near his parents, church officials said.
Carol Brinati, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Orlando, said she had no additional information about Emerson.
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said of Emerson's resignation: "Fundamentally, that doesn't change the moral duty of both bishops [Melczek and Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski] to search for other victims and witnesses."
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