The sanctuary of St. Pancras Church in Glendale erupted with applause last week when the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens announced that it had found the sex abuse charges leveled against the parish priest “unsubstantiated and lacking in credibility.”
A diocesan investigation concluded that Reverend Vincent Gallo, 69, was not serving at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Bushwick when the alleged abuse occurred, and was therefore exonerated, according to a letter from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.
The letter was read at an evening mass on Saturday, March 13th, and at the three morning masses the following Sunday, at which time the congregation was allowed to ask questions.
Sister Joseph Maureen Zick, principal of St. Pancras School, said the parishioners were “elated” by the news.
“I was so happy it was resolved,” she said. “It was just so similar to the life of Christ being falsely accused.”
Father Gallo was named last October as one of 24 defendants in a sex abuse law suit filed by Manhattan attorneys Michael Dowd and Susan Egan, demanding $300 million in damages on behalf of 27 plaintiffs. The case, which also names the diocese as a defendant, is still pending in State Supreme Court.
Last week, Dowd and Egan said the diocesan investigation was flawed because it did not include an interview with the priest’s accuser, a San Antonio man who grew up in Good Counsel parish during the 1950s and ’60s.
The accuser, a former seminary student, said he wrote an eight-page letter to former Bishop Thomas Daily detailing his claims of abuse, prior to becoming a plaintiff in the case.
According to the lawsuit’s allegations, the abuse occurred in approximately 1967, when the accuser was 14 years old. The suit claims that the priest asked the plaintiff to bring sexually explicit pictures to confession, and then watched as the youth masturbated.
But, according to diocesan spokesman Frank DeRosa, Father Gallo did not arrive at Good Counsel until 1970.
“In contacting a number of people who were members of Our Lady of Good Counsel parish at the time, information was gathered in the course of the investigation that did not substantiate the allegation,” DiMarzio wrote in his letter, concluding that Gallo should remain as the pastor of St. Pancras, where he has served for four years.
The investigation was conducted by a retired NYPD sex crimes detective hired last year by an independent sexual misconduct review panel appointed by the diocese.
Father Gallo is the first defendant in the case to be cleared by such an investigation, according to DeRosa. He kept his job during the review process.
“He just kept doing his life,” Zick said. “He said every single mass. He went to every single wake. He did every funeral. He just kept being fatherly and pastoral. It was a beautiful example.”
Father Gallo, who has always denied all allegations, was happy the investigation took place. “I feel very supported by my parishioners,” he said. “I leave it all in the Lord’s hands.”