Diocese Banishes 2 Troubled Priests

By Barry Flynn and Jim Leusner
Orlando Sentinel [Florida]
February 4, 1997

Two Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual misconduct with boys in west Volusia parishes were sent quietly to Maryland months ago for psychiatric treatment.

Bishop Norbert Dorsey said Monday that neither would ever be returned to diocesan duties here.

After the allegations were reported to church officials last fall, the priests were removed from their pastoral duties pending an investigation, diocesan spokeswoman Sister Lucy Vazquez said.

Church officials notified law enforcement and social-service agencies but wouldn't disclose specifics about the complaints when contacted months ago by The Orlando Sentinel.

Vazquez said the bishop made the allegations public Monday because the diocese had completed its investigation and decided on the priests' futures.

The cases are unrelated and were separated by years. Neither resulted in criminal charges.

One complaint was against the Rev. James M. Coyle, 40, once a parish priest at St. Peter's Church in DeLand. He was accused of a series of sexual molestations over five years in the 1980s and with plying boys with marijuana and alcohol, according to a DeLand police incident report.

Only one boy - who said he was 12 when the abuse began - reported his accusations, said Vazquez, the diocese's chancellor or top administrative officer.

"There were definite allegations from one boy," Vazquez said. "There were questions on a second one."

A DeLand police investigator said the youth had reported that as many as seven other boys had been involved, and that the investigation isn't fully closed.

The other priest suspended by the bishop is the Rev. Oscar Salazar, 38, who was accused of groping a 17-year-old boy in Deltona last year.

The complaint the diocese passed along to investigators said those encounters occurred in August and September in Salazar's room in the rectory of Our Lady of the Lakes Church in Deltona. Salazar also was accused of offering wine to the minor, which the youth said he refused, according to a report filed with the Sheriff's Office.

Coyle wasn't charged because a statute of limitations prevents prosecution so many years after the alleged incidents, DeLand police Cpl. Paul Proctor said.

Salazar wasn't charged because neither the boy involved nor his parents wanted to prosecute, a Volusia sheriff's spokesman said.

Members of the families would not discuss the complaints.

Church officials' decision to report the allegations conforms to a diocese policy put in place after previous allegations of sexual misconduct had gone unreported.

The Orlando diocese had been rocked by such charges several times during the past two decades, including a case in which Vazquez's predecessor, then-Chancellor Arthur Bendixen, was accused of molesting at least 11 boys. He later resigned from the priesthood.

As of Monday, both Salazar and Coyle were still at the St. Luke Institute, a Silver Spring, Md., facility that specializes in treating clergy with sexual disorders, Vazquez said.

Neither man responded to phone calls or registered letters from the Sentinel dating to October.

Coyle's history since 1990, when he left St. Peter's, isn't clear. He joined Blessed Trinity Church in Ocala in February 1990 and stayed through fall 1990, Vazquez said.

"Then he went to school for a semester at St. Thomas University's pastoral ministries program in Miami," she said.

After quitting St. Thomas, Coyle took a two-year leave of absence at his own request for personal reasons, Vazquez said.

In spring 1993, Coyle joined a religious community for two years, Vazquez said. Mary Gorski, a spokeswoman for the Salvatorians, said he lived with their community briefly in Milwaukee. In December 1995, Coyle was assigned to St. Mary's Church in Rockledge in Brevard County.

With Monday's announcement, the bishop "has informed them that he will not give them any future assignment in this diocese nor could he recommend them for priestly ministry in any other diocese," Vazquez's statement said.

In each case, "the diocese sees a responsibility to try to give him whatever therapy we feel could be helpful to start a different type of life elsewhere," Vazquez said.


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