Orlando-area priest cleared of wrongdoing amid child sex abuse allegation
Authorities say abuse claim was unfounded
An Orlando-area priest who was relieved of his duties amid an allegation of sexually abusing a child has been cleared of any wrongdoing after authorities said they determined the claim was unfounded.
Officials with the Berks County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney's office said they received a report on Aug. 24 from a man who said his daughter had been sexually abused by someone.
The man named Rev. David Gillis as the possible perpetrator because he was assigned to St. John the Baptist de La Salle School in Shillington, Berks County, from 1996 to 2005. The man had no basis to accuse Gillis other than the fact that he had contact with the victim when she was 8 years old, which is when the abuse was alleged to have happened.
"As a result of our thorough investigation, it has been determined the allegation of child sexual abuse against Reverend Gillis was false. The alleged victim disclosed to our detectives, in an interview, that she was not sexually abused by Reverend Gillis. Additionally, detectives interviewed other individuals of interest and found no evidence to substantiate the allegation against Reverend Gillis," prosecutors said in a news release.
Bishop Alfred Schlert of Allentown relieved Gillis of his duties when he became aware of the allegation. The Diocese of Orlando, which Gillis had been serving under since he left Berks County in 2005, also relieved Gillis of his duties.
On Aug. 29, officials from the Diocese of Orlando said during a news conference that Gillis had most recently served as parochial administrator of Church of Our Savior in Cocoa Beach. Prior to the recent unfounded allegation, he had been in good standing with the Diocese of Orlando for the past 10-plus years.
"It is unfortunate that the accusation of child sexual abuse against Rev. Gillis was made public by the Diocese of Orlando before the outcome of this investigation could be determined. These types of investigations are very sensitive in nature. Many times when the accused is publicly mentioned prematurely, without any factual basis, it can compromise an investigation. With regard to Rev. Gillis or any individual subject to an accusation, we must be cognizant that the accused has the right to due process," Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams said.
The Diocese of Allentown has since restored Gillis' status as a priest. Officials said he was initially removed as part of the Diocese's zero-tolerance policy.
The Diocese of Orlando has been contacted for a comment on the most recent development in this case. This story will be updated when a response is received.
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