A Franciscan brother now living on Clearwater Beach has been charged with sexually assaulting four altar boys at a Boston church in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Brother Fidelis DeBerardinis, 75, pleaded innocent Thursday to two counts of rape and abuse of a child, four counts of assault of a child with intent to rape, and five counts of indecent assault and battery on a person under age 14.
Prosecutors allege that DeBerardinis raped, attempted to rape or fondled the boys, ages 8 to 13, inside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in East Boston and in the church’s rectory on various occasions between 1968 and 1973.
DeBerardinis left the parish in 1973 and served in various posts in the United States, Canada and South America, as well as in Jerusalem. Since 1999, he has lived in a home for retired Franciscans at 50 Somerset St. on Clearwater Beach.
DeBerardinis was arrested Wednesday while visiting his sister in Lowell, Mass.
DeBerardinis never worked in Pinellas County, said the Rev. Robert Campagna, the minister provincial of the Franciscan Province of the Immaculate Conception in New York City. He was sent to the Clearwater Beach home in part because he is in poor health, Campagna said.
He said DeBerardinis was released on bail Thursday and will stay at a facility in Massachusetts until his case is resolved.
Massachusetts’ statute of limitations for child rape is 15 years from the time the crime is reported to authorities or from the alleged victim’s 16th birthday. But prosecutors were able to charge DeBerardinis because the clock stops running when the suspect is out of state.
DeBerardinis, who has been a Franciscan for 40 years, is not a priest and was never under the supervision of the Boston Archdiocese. He was assigned to the Boston church and was under the supervision of his order.
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