Diocese of St. Petersburg Statement Regarding Lawsuit

Posted inLocal News

The Diocese of St. Petersburg is aware of a lawsuit that has been filed alleging sexual abuse of a minor by Robert D. Huneke. This former priest originally served in the Diocese of Rockville Center and was transferred to the Diocese of St. Petersburg in 1979 with a letter of recommendation from his bishop and at that time the Diocese was unaware of any prior misconduct with minors. He was assigned to Christ the King Parish in Tampa in 1979.  In 1982, Huneke was removed from ministry in the Diocese of St. Petersburg after an allegation that he abused a child while in the Diocese of Rockville Center. At the time of his removal, the Diocese had received no complaints relating to the ministry of Huneke while he served in this Diocese.  Huneke died in 2002. Bishop Thomas Larkin, who is mentioned in the lawsuit, died in 2006.

On July 16, 2018, the Diocese received news of an allegation that Huneke had abused a minor during the time he served at Christ the King between 1979 and 1982. The individual was referred to the Victim Assistance Coordinator and advised to report the incident to law enforcement if he believed a crime was committed. The Diocese also reported the allegation to the state attorney in accordance with our Policy for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults.  We respect the victim’s decision to litigate and the Diocese will respond to the victim’s attorney once we are served with the lawsuit.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg stands with victims of sexual abuse and we recognize the courage it requires to speak out about their betrayal and hurt. Our hearts continue to go out to the victims of priests and others who have betrayed their trust.  We have consistently provided counseling, pastoral care, prayer and other support to victims to assist with their healing. We have established policies that include a zero tolerance for sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, a lay Review Board to assess all reported allegations against clergy and mandatory Safe Environment training for everyone who works or volunteers with minors and vulnerable adults. Since 1992, the Diocese of St. Petersburg has completed fingerprint background screenings on 59,000 priests, deacons, lay employees and volunteers entrusted with the care, responsibility and/or supervision of minors or vulnerable adults, as well as contractor and vendors working in close proximity to these persons.