DOCUMENT: Sex, Crime

Scandal: Priest Offers Services On Web Site

In the latest church sex scandal, a Catholic pastor in Florida has just been stripped of his duties after church officials learned that the reverend had placed a personal ad--complete with a naked photo of himself--on a gay web site.

Francis T. Gera, 64, was removed Thursday (2/20) from his post as pastor of Holy Dormition Byzantine Catholic Church in Ormond Beach, Florida. Gera was relieved of his duties when church brass learned of his posting on the Silverfox Pictures Archive web site, which describes itself as, "your one-stop repository for pictures of older men."

Along with a full-frontal photo of Gera (which TSG has tweaked, above), the personal ad described the preferences of "Poppa Bear": "likes younger, TOP, slim-muscular men, 18-40. he lives in daytona beach, florida and can be reached at [an AOL address that begins with Gera's initials,ftg]." The e-mail address included in the personal ad was the same one at which parishoners would correspond with Gera.

Until his removal this week, Gera had headed Holy Dormition since October 1997. Before that, he was assigned to St. Mary's Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Compared to the Roman Catholic rite, the Byzantines represent a small piece of the U.S. Catholic population. While the Byzantine rite recognizes the Pope as the church's leader, the smaller group has a variety of different customs and rules, including one that, in some instances, allows married men to become priests (though, like the Roman Catholic rite, unmarried priests are barred from having sex).

Until Gera was removed from his post, his name was on the home page of Holy Dormition's web site. In addition, he appeared in a photo (seen at left) wearing his clerical garb as he stood next to a painting of the Virgin Mary. That picture, too, has been removed.

This is the second time in less than a year that a Byzantine priest has run into trouble due to his Internet postings. TSG reported last year that Rev. Glenn Michael Davidowich, a 38-year-old pastor from Pennsylvania, maintained a wrestling web site that featured hundreds of gratuitous photos of young men (some under 18) in nothing but clingy Speedos and other revealing clothing.