DA: Former Berks priest a victim of false abuse allegation

DA criticizes Orlando diocese for naming priest

READING, Pa. - A man who once worked as a priest in Berks County has fallen victim to a false allegation of sexual abuse, according to prosecutors.

The allegation against the Rev. David C. Gillis was made last month by the alleged victim's biological father, but Berks County District Attorney John Adams said Wednesday that the father had no reason to name Gillis other than because he was a priest at St. John the Baptist de La Salle School in Shillington at the same time his daughter was a student there.

During a subsequent interview, the alleged victim told detectives that she was never sexually abused by Gillis, who was assigned as a priest at the school from June 1996 until June 2005, when he relocated to Florida.

The allegation prompted the Diocese of Orlando, where Gillis currently serves, to publicly identify him in a letter to its parishioners and to remove Gillis from the ministry pending the outcome of the investigation.

"It is unfortunate that the accusation of child sexual abuse against Reverend Gillis was made public by the Diocese of Orlando before the outcome of this investigation could be determined," Berks County District Attorney John Adams said. "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 Reverend Gillis or any individual subject to an accusation, we must be cognizant that the accused has the right to due process," Adams continued.

The Diocese of Orlando has not yet commented on Gillis' exoneration or its decision to publicly identify him before the investigation was complete.

The Diocese of Allentown, where Gillis officials remains a priest, thanked Adams for his "swift action" in investigating the allegations.

"The Diocese of Allentown cooperated fully with the District Attorney and did not issue a news release at his request," the diocese said in a statement. "Because of the District Attorney's determination that the allegation is false, Father Gillis will now be restored to the status of a priest of the Diocese of Allentown in good standing."

The district attorney said his office will continue to pursue any information or leads concerning child sexual abuse within the Diocese of Allentown, which includes Berks County.

Anyone who was a victim of sexual child abuse or knows of such abuse is urged to contact the DA's office at 610-478-7171 or the ChildLine at 800-932-0313.

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