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Charlotte diocese releases list of 14 clergy credibly accused of child sex abuse

Bruce Henderson, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Religious News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte released a list Monday of 14 clergy members who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse in western North Carolina since the diocese formed in 1972.

The diocese, which serves more than 400,000 Catholics in 46 counties, said no clergy now working for it has been credibly accused of molesting minors. Only one credible case of abuse within the diocese has been alleged in the past 20 years, it said.

"Credibly accused," as the diocese uses the term, means allegations that clergy members admitted to, were charged for by law enforcement, were found believable by the diocese's Lay Review Board or were uncovered in a recently completed review of personnel files.

Most of the incidents reported Monday allegedly occurred decades ago, and the diocese said all 14 accused clergy members were subsequently removed from ministry or had died before the allegations arose.

Officials separately listed 23 clergy members who served the Charlotte diocese without incident but were accused of misconduct elsewhere, and six who served western North Carolina before the Charlotte diocese's 1972 inception.

"It is painful to even try to comprehend such gravely immoral behavior," Charlotte Bishop Peter Jugis wrote in a letter published Monday along with the list and other abuse information. "However, in speaking with survivors and hearing their stories, it is clear to me that making known the names of their abusers can promote healing for them and their families."

 

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, whose staff drafted legislation this year that extended the statute of limitations for child abuse claims, called the allegations "devastating."

"I hope this action is part of a process to bring some closure and justice to the victim survivors," Stein said in a statement. "Each of these victim survivors has legal recourse available, including a two-year look-back window for civil claims, regardless of the statute of limitations, that the SAFE Child Act made available to them."

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group, said the lists were incomplete. Among the accused who were not named, SNAP said, were a former Charlotte teacher who had been ordained elsewhere and a seminarian in Salisbury. It also cited the absence of Paul L. Berrell, a former minister of music at St. Eugene Catholic Church in Asheville who pleaded guilty in 2010 to producing child pornography.

"This is information that Catholic officials in Charlotte undoubtedly have access to and yet chose not to make public for reasons unknown," SNAP said in a statement. "It is hard to see this as anything but continued efforts by church leadership to downplay cases of sexual violence and make the problem appear less common -- and less recent -- than it is."

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