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Retired priest, religion teacher accused of sexual relationship with teenager in 1977

A retired Jacksonville priest and former religion teacher is under investigation over allegations he was in a sexual relationship with a teenager in 1977, police reports show.
A retired Jacksonville priest and former religion teacher is under investigation over allegations he was in a sexual relationship with a teenager in 1977, police reports show.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A retired Jacksonville priest and former religion teacher is under investigation over allegations he was in a sexual relationship with a teenager in 1977, police reports show.

Father David Terrence Morgan, or Father Terry Morgan, was a 27-year-old religion teacher at Bishop Kenny High School at the time. The priest is accused of having a sexual relationship with the 17- or 18-year-old, lasting two to three months.

The victim, now in their 60s, told police they were never forced to have sex. The victim also told police they had no intention of pursuing criminal charges and knows the incident is past the statute of limitations.

The allegations were brought to the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office in September 2020. The person or entity that brought the charges to police was contacted by the victim in August. That person or entity was not named.

Morgan, now 71, refused to answer questions from police and, through a letter from his attorney, invoked his constitutional rights.

The criminal case was closed after an assistant state attorney advised the statute of limitations passed.

The Diocese of St. Augustine told parishioners several months later -- the week of Christmas -- it was investigating multiple allegations against Morgan. The diocese posted the allegations in church bulletins but did not specify the nature of the allegations or when they might have occurred -- only that they found the allegations “had a semblance of truth” and that any other potential victims should come forward.

The timing of Morgan’s departure remains unclear. Morgan was a patriarchal vicar at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine when he left for a six-month sabbatical in the summer of 2018.

In the July 2018 announcement, Morgan wrote, “With Bishop Estevez’s permission and encouragement, I am beginning an intense one-semester retreat/sabbatical this month.” He added that he would have “spiritual director and professional counselors guide me into the next phase of my life.”

Church bulletins never listed Morgan as returning from sabbatical. His retirement was never announced in church bulletins.

The announcement of allegations and an investigation into Morgan by the Diocese of St. Augustine comes more than two years after his departure.

The Diocese of St. Augustine refused to answer whether Morgan’s sabbatical coincided with the diocese becoming aware of allegations against the priest. After requests via email, the diocese also would not specify how many allegations Morgan is facing, the nature of the alleged abuse or when it happened.

“We are not releasing additional information to the bulletin announcement until the canonical investigation has been completed,” Diocese of St. Augustine Communications Director Kathleen Bagg said in an email.

The announcement marks the 14th priest within 37 years (1954-1991) who the diocese has publicly confirmed is facing allegations. The church cautioned it has not deemed Morgan guilty at this time.

Emails and phone calls to Morgan and his attorneys were not immediately returned.


About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.