Former Orlando Priest Accused of Misconduct
An Allegation Surfaces That the Rev. Richard Emerson Had Illicit Contact with a Minor

By Amy C. Rippel
Orlando Sentinel [Florida]
December 19, 2004

A Roman Catholic priest who served in the Catholic Diocese of Orlando -- at an Orlando church and possibly one in DeLand in the late 1980s -- was placed on administrative leave after an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor, authorities said.

The Rev. Richard Emerson, 52, served in the Orlando area for more than two years in the late 1980s, said Brian Olszewski, communications director for the Catholic Diocese of Gary, Ind., where Emerson most recently served. Olszewski said the allegation "has to do with an incident that took place in the late 1980s when he was in the Diocese of Orlando."

Orlando diocese spokeswoman Carol Brinati said he served at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church on Edgewater Drive. Orlando Sentinel records show that Emerson possibly served at St. Peter's Catholic Church in DeLand in 1990.

Olszewski said the Indiana diocese learned of the allegation about eight weeks ago from officials at the Orlando diocese. After an investigation by an Indiana diocese team, parishioners at northwest Indiana churches where Emerson served were notified of the allegation.

Brinati said parishioners at churches where he served in Central Florida were not notified.

"It's not standard procedure for us to then let other churches know," she said. "The only people that we have to contact are the law enforcement and the bishop of the diocese in Gary, where he was working, and we did those two things."

Brinati said the Orange County Sheriff's Office is investigating the allegation. She did not know details about the allegation or the investigation.

Olszewski said Emerson, who has been a priest since 1978, requested in the late 1980s to be transferred from the Indiana diocese to Orlando to be closer to his relatives here. He returned to his Indiana parish in the 1990s.

Olszewski said a diocese team, made up of lay people and clergy, interviewed the complainant and Emerson. Based on those interviews, the team determined the allegations are credible, he said.

"In this case, they felt they were," he said. "He has not admitted to doing this."

Emerson was placed on administrative leave from church functions and services. The church is not allowing him any contact with minors and he has agreed to a psychological evaluation, Olszewski said.

He will remain on leave until officials at the Vatican can review the case and make recommendations.


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