Today, the Diocese of St. Petersburg comprises five counties in the Tampa Bay area-Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus. Prior to 1984 and the creation of the Diocese of Venice, the Diocese of St. Petersburg extended well south of the Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg.
While the Catholic Church priest sex abuse scandal in the Diocese of St. Petersburg wanes in comparison to Los Angeles and Boston, there have been some notorious cases in the Diocese. Perhaps the worst pedophile/ephebophile priest in the Diocese was Robert Schaeufele who was ordained in 1975. He abused young boys in every parish to which he was assigned in nearly 30 years as an active priest- St. Jude Cathedral in St. Petersburg, St. Vincent de Paul in Holiday, Epiphany in Venice, Sacred Heart in Pinellas Park, St. Rita’s in Dade City, and Holy Cross in St. Petersburg. While the Diocese of St. Petersburg denies it, they had warnings about Schaeufele. While he was stationed at Holy Cross, a young priest on his first assignment complained to diocesan officials that “Fr. Bob” as he was known had children in the rectory, something that was forbidden. As early as 1975 or 1976 a parishioner of St. Jude Cathedral met with then Monsignor Larkin to complain that “Fr. Bob” had abused her young son. Larkin did nothing about it. Larkin was later made the bishop of St. Petersburg and retired in 1986.
Another notorious Catholic priest accused of abusing young children was Rocco D’Angelo who was originally a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami. In 1976, D’Angelo applied for incardination (acceptance) into the Diocese of St. Petersburg. When St. Petersburg church officials asked the Archdiocese of Miami for references, they were told that D’Angelo had abused four young boys between the ages of 9-15. Miami had sent D’Angelo to St. Luke’s Institute in Maryland for treatment of his sexual problem. He was proclaimed cured and sent to St. Petersburg where he continued to abuse young children. Numerous priest abuse lawsuits were filed in Miami and St. Petersburg concerning D’Angelo. He died in 2005.
Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa was run by the Salesians of Don Bosco. The school served as a boarding school for troubled boys as well as a summer camp. Unfortunately, scores of young boys were sexually molested at Mary Help and multiple lawsuits were filed against the religious order. Some of the worst priests and brothers at Mary Help included Brother William Burke, Fr. Terrence O’Donnell, and Jorge Acosta.