Religion

Bishop offers apology to clergy sex abuse victims, but still not releasing priest list

Charlotte Catholic diocese hasn’t named priests accused of sex abuse

Catholic dioceses around the country have released names of priests credibly accused of sex abuse, Charlotte is not one of them.
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Catholic dioceses around the country have released names of priests credibly accused of sex abuse, Charlotte is not one of them.

Bishop Peter Jugis, who heads the 46-county Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, issued a “sincere apology” Wednesday to victims of clergy sex abuse, which he called “this crime and awful sin.”

Jugis’ statement came a day after the Observer and others reported that the names of two monks who had once worked at Belmont Abbey College and at St. Michael Catholic Church in Gastonia appeared on a list recently released by the Diocese of Richmond, Va., of priests “with credible and substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.”

The two monks, Donald Scales and Frederick George, had also worked in Virginia, though the accusation against Scales, who died in 2008, dated to his time as pastor of St. Michael parish in the late 1970s.

Though Jugis said in his Tuesday statement that the Charlotte diocese was committed to being “open and transparent,” it has so far resisted the trend around the country of releasing a list of past and present priests in the diocese who have been credibly accused of child sex abuse.

According to the Catholic News Herald, the Charlotte diocese’s own newspaper, the scores of dioceses that have put out such lists in recent months include many of those nearby. The Archdiocese of Atlanta, and the dioceses of Raleigh, Charleston, Savannah, Richmond and Arlington, Va., and Nashville and Knoxville, Tenn., have all released their own lists, the newspaper reported.

In December, H. Cornell Bradley, a former priest of the Jesuit Catholic religious order, appeared on a list of Jesuit priests who were “credibly accused” since the 1950s of sexually abusing minors.

Among numerous other pastoral assignments over five decades in various states, Bradley worked at then-Jesuit-staffed St. Therese Catholic Church in Mooresville in 1988-89 and 1998, and St. Elizabeth of the Hill Country Church in Boone from 1989 to 1993, according to the list released by the Jesuits’ Maryland Province.

“Multiple allegations of sexual abuse” by Bradley occurred in the “1970s–1980s” in Ocean City, Md., and Washington, D.C., according to the list. Bradley was “removed from ministry” in 2006 and left the Jesuits in 2007, according to the list.

In an article last month, the Observer quoted N.C. Attorney General, Josh Stein, as saying he thought the Charlotte diocese should follow the lead of Raleigh and other dioceses in releasing a list. “I believe transparency is important,” Stein said, “not only for families that came into contact with the named priest, but to restore confidence in the institution itself.”

Though Jugis didn’t mention the prospect of a list for the Charlotte diocese in his Wednesday statement, his spokesman David Hains told the Observer on Tuesday that the diocese has not yet decided whether or not to release one.

In his statement, Jugis instead pointed to the Catholic News Herald, which he said “has been reporting cases of clergy sexual abuse” in its pages since the mid-1990s. He said people could access those stories by scouting out archived editions of the newspaper at CatholicNewsHerald.com.

Jugis also alluded to a summit at the Vatican this week, during which top bishops from around the world will meet with Pope Francis to discuss the scandal of clergy sex abuse of children.

“As worldwide attention once again turns to the scourge of sexual abuse of the young,” Jugis said, “the Diocese of Charlotte in solidarity with Pope Francis offers a sincere apology to any who have been victimized by this crime and awful sin. And we urge anyone who has been abused to report it to the authorities.”

The Charlotte bishop suggested that the meeting could offer guidance to the diocese and the U.S. bishops as they move forward.

Jugis’ comments brought a skeptical response from Charlotte attorney Seth Langson, who has brought three lawsuits against the diocese in child sex abuse cases. He won a $1 million settlement in 2010 for his client, Robby Price, who was molested by a Charlotte priest in 1999 when he was a 14-year-old altar boy.

In his court battles with the diocese, Langson said he has reviewed more than 30,000 pages of documents from the diocese, including personnel files.

“I don’t know where (Jugis) gets his history from, but the diocese has not published all of the names of the accused in the News Herald,” Langson told the Observer on Wednesday. “I know of names that have never been published or announced.”

Langson added that he’s not convinced the Charlotte diocese will ever release its own list of credibly accused priests.

“(Jugis’) comments about waiting for ... guidance,” Langson said, “tells me that the diocese will continue to refuse to release a list unless the pope orders it, which I don’t expect.”

Charlotte Observer staff writer Joe Marusak contributed.

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Tim Funk has covered faith & values for the Charlotte Observer for 15 years. He has won three national awards from the Religion News Association and numerous awards from the North Carolina Press Association. He has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.

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