Pastor Removed While Investigation Is Conducted
A Female Parishioner Has Accused Father Ignatius Tuoc of Misconduct. He Denies the Allegations

By Janet Shelton
St. Petersburg

The St. Petersburg Diocese has announced the removal of a Tampa pastor pending a diocesan investigation into allegations of misconduct.

A statement from the diocese said Father Ignatius Tuoc, 59, pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in Tampa, was temporarily removed after the diocese received a complaint from a female parishioner regarding his conduct.

After a preliminary investigation, the diocesan Review Board determined further investigation was needed and Father Tuoc was asked to step down while that investigation took place.

"The allegation of misconduct is covered by the policy of the Diocese of St. Petersburg for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults," the Jan. 30 statement read. "Therefore, the diocese has conducted a preliminary investigation utilizing an outside investigator and referred the matter to the diocesan review board. The review board has recommended a further investigation."

The woman said the abuse occurred in the early 1990s when she was a minor.

As he has done in other situations regarding clergy sexual abuse, Bishop Robert N. Lynch is asking that anyone who feels he or she has been abused by Father Tuoc or any employee of the diocese notify law enforcement or Marti Zeitz, the Victim Assistance Minister for the diocese, at 1-866-407-4505.

"Bishop Lynch and the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg stand by their firm zero-tolerance policy," the statement read. "Parishioners are encouraged to pray for the person making the allegation and for Father Tuoc during this time."

Father Tuoc, who took over as pastor of Epiphany on June 1, 1992, after serving as parochial vicar in the parish for nine months, has "consistently denied the allegation and maintains his innocence," the diocesan statement said.

Father Tuoc came to the St. Petersburg Diocese in April 1976 from a diocese in Vietnam, where he was born. He has served the Vietnamese community and as parochial vicar in several St. Petersburg Diocese parishes: Christ the King, Tampa; St. Patrick, Largo; St. Mary Our Lady of Grace, St. Petersburg; Blessed Trinity Parish, St. Petersburg; and St. Timothy Parish, Tampa.

Father Tuoc was placed in charge of the St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission at Epiphany in 1991 when the previous pastor, Father Robert Rittmeyer retired. The mission has grown over the years and today the Vietnamese families represent the majority community at the parish.

While the investigation is taking place, the parish and mission will be administered by Father Joseph Water, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Temple Terrace and dean of the East Hillsborough Deanery.


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