Ex-Priest Accused of Sex Abuse, Diocese Says

By Mark I. Pinsky
Orlando Sentinel
February 27, 2007

The Catholic Diocese of Orlando announced Monday that it has received a credible allegation of child sex abuse by a former priest who served at two Central Florida parishes and a Catholic high school in the early 1970s.

At the time, the Rev. Thomas Sykes was a member of the Atonement Friars, a New York-based order. The Vatican eventually defrocked Sykes, according to diocesan officials, who say he has died, though they could not provide further dates or details.

Sykes served at St. Teresa in Titusville and at St. John Vianney and Bishop Moore High School in Orlando. The diocese has asked that anyone aware of other incidents involving Sykes or any other priest to call Sister Lucy Vazquez at 407-246-4825.

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

Sykes was accused of sexual abuse before. In 1987, a man alleged he and his brother had been abused by Sykes when they were children. The man's brother committed suicide.

The accusation, first made to the Diocese of Orlando in the 1970s, led the diocese to force Sykes to leave in 1976, according to a deposition Sykes gave in 1987 in a Brevard County case involving another priest accused of molestation.

However, a spokeswoman for the diocese said Monday that Sykes' 1976 transfer by the Atonement Friars to a Richmond, Va., parish was not the result of any allegation of abuse.

The surviving brother settled out of court with the Diocese of Orlando in the early 1990s, the Sentinel reported in 1995.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Sykes later married and moved to the Boston area.

Mark I. Pinsky can be reached at 407-420-5589 or


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