Religion

Charlotte diocese to publish names of Catholic clergy ‘credibly accused’ of sex abuse

The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte said Monday it will publish by year’s end a list of clergy members who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse. Survivors of abuse have criticized the diocese for not doing so sooner.

In a statement, Bishop Peter Jugis said that the 46-county diocese welcomes new procedures announced last week by Pope Francis that require priests and nuns to report sexual abuse by clergy. The procedures, which will apply to the church worldwide, include some measures already in use in Charlotte, Jugis said.

Jugis hinted at a change of heart when it comes to publishing the names of accused clergy, as other U.S. dioceses have done but Charlotte’s has not.

“Through my discussions with abuse survivors, I have come to believe that a full airing of abuse from the past is crucial in the healing process for victims and for the entire Church,” his statement said.

The Charlotte diocese started reviewing personnel files and other records last fall for allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy filed since the inception of the diocese in 1972, Jugis said. The process began at the recommendation of its Lay Review Board, which would evaluate and investigate any allegations, he said.

“To ensure this research is thorough, it is difficult to predict exactly when this process will be complete, however, the diocese is committed to finishing the investigation and publishing a list of credibly accused clergy before the end of the year,” the bishop said.

‘Why the delay’

In March the diocese’s second-in-command, Monsignor Mauricio West, stepped down after a “credible allegation” of sexual misconduct involving a former adult student of Belmont Abbey College. West, the diocese’s vicar general and its chancellor for nearly 25 years, denied the allegation but resigned following a finding by the Lay Review Board, the diocese said.

The events were alleged to have occurred in the mid-1980s, when West was vice president for student affairs at Belmont Abbey, a small, Catholic liberal arts college in Gaston County. They involved multiple incidents of unwanted overtures toward a student over a two-year period, Jugis said in a statement at the time.

Survivors of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests had demanded last month that the Charlotte diocese release the names of accused priests.

Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, accused Jugis of “using the centuries-old tactics of denial, hiding and transferring pedophiles to protect them” by not releasing the names.

“While we are glad that Bishop Jugis is finally taking this much belated and long-overdue step, it is challenging to understand why it took so long to reach this decision,” SNAP said in a statement Monday. The group suggested that Jugis put out a list of accused clergy now and update it as more information comes in.

The group released the names in April of five priests who it said have been been accused of sexual abuse and once lived or work in the Charlotte area.

The Observer has not reported those names without independently confirming the allegations. The Charlotte diocese said the named priests appeared to have not been serving in the diocese at the time of the alleged incidents.

Two former Benedictine monks who once worked at Belmont Abbey and St. Michael Catholic Church in Gastonia appeared on a list released by the Diocese of Richmond, Va., of priests “with credible and substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors,” the Observer reported in February.

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