February 12, 2005

Former Notre Dame pastor denies abuse allegations

The News-Dispatch

By Deborah Sederberg, The News-Dispatch

Attorneys representing the Rev. Richard Emerson on Friday issued a statement responding to what they call "unfounded allegations of sexual abuse."

In December, Emerson, then pastor of Notre Dame Catholic Church in Long Beach, was placed on administrative leave pending investigation of allegations of abuse lodged by an Orlando, Fla., man. The man, now 29, accused Emerson of sexually abusing him in the 1980s when he was a boy.

Attorney James F. Gilbride of the Miami law firm of Gilbride, Heller & Brown said in the statement, "This lawsuit is a shameful, calculated attempt to take advantage of a political and social climate that allows for rampant and frivolous accusations against Catholic priests.

"The truth surrounding the ministry of Father Emerson is that he has an unblemished career spanning more than 26 hears of devotion to the Church, his parishioners and the communities he has served."

Attorney Joseph Saunders of Pinnellas Park, Fla., representing the alleged victim, has filed a John Doe lawsuit against the Diocese of Gary, the Diocese of Orlando and Emerson. Saunders claims diocesan officials failed to respond or take action when earlier charges of abuse had been made against Emerson.

Posted by kshaw at February 12, 2005 02:16 PM