Abuse Charges against Jesuit Teacher 'Credible'
By John Wing
Tampa Tribune [Florida]
May 10, 2002
Tampa - An English teacher who taught at Jesuit High School from 1980 through 1982 was removed from the priesthood Thursday after accusations of sexual abuse were made by a former Jesuit student.
The Rev. Thomas J. Hidding, who studied for the priesthood at Jesuit and later served as an associate pastor at Tampa's Sacred Heart Catholic Church, was stripped of his "priestly faculties" by the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus, which oversees the Jesuit order.
The former student, whom church leaders did not identify, made the allegations about a week ago, said the Rev. Thomas Stahel, a spokesman for the province.
After an investigation, including interviews with the accuser and Hidding, the allegations of sexual abuse were deemed "credible," Stahel said.
"It's very unsettling for all of us," said Stahel, who said Hidding was a close friend while serving in New Orleans as associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Church from 1997 through 1999.
The sexual abuse reportedly happened at the school between 1980 and 1982, when Hidding was a seminarian and teaching at Jesuit, Stahel said.
Hidding's removal comes less than a month after a popular Jesuit teacher, the Rev. Vincent Orlando, 60, was removed from his duties after officials learned he was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor in 1985 in Texas. Those charges also were deemed credible by the diocese.
The school's president, the Rev. Joseph Doyle, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
But a church board member said she didn't think the news would disturb the students the way Orlando's dismissal did, since Hidding hasn't taught there for 20 years.
"I know Father Doyle does not plan to give a student assembly like he did when Father Orlando was removed," Deanne Roberts said.
"He is sending a letter home to parents, but none of the current faculty or students knew this" priest.
The school, at 4701 N. Himes Ave., was founded in 1899 and touts many of Tampa's prominent professionals as graduates.
Hidding was ordained in 1986. He first served in campus ministry at Loyola University in New Orleans before coming back to Tampa at Sacred Heart from 1993 through 1997.
He went back to New Orleans before taking his latest position as associate pastor at Gesu Catholic Church in Miami.
Sacred Heart's pastor, the Rev. Paul Osterle, was not available for comment.
Stahel would not comment on whether the accuser plans to bring civil or criminal charges against Hidding. But the ever-burgeoning sex abuse scandal is forcing church leaders to address past sins, he said.
"We're all hopeful this is a purification of the church and that we are learning from our past mistakes," Stahel said.
Reporter John Wing can be reached at (813) 259-7800 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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