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Group pushes bishop for action

A national group representing victims of child sex abuse by priests called Wednesday for Charlotte Catholic Bishop Peter Jugis to be more aggressive in seeking out other possible victims in the case of a priest charged with having sex with a 14-year-old Charlotte boy in 1999.

At a news conference outside the offices of the Diocese of Charlotte, members of SNAP – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – urged Jugis to visit the two Charlotte parishes where the Rev. Robert Yurgel was assigned, and personally encourage anyone with information to come forward.

“We're here today to beg Charlotte's bishop to act like a genuine shepherd,” said SNAP national director David Clohessy, a victim himself when he was a child in Missouri. “It's crucial that bishops follow the example Jesus Christ set in the parable of the lost sheep, where Jesus said, ‘Leave the 99 (sheep) and go out into the cold and the dark and … and find that one, lost, wounded person.'”

In a letter to Jugis, SNAP also pushed for him to follow the lead of 15 other U.S. bishops, who have posted on their Web sites the names, photos and present locations of all priests accused of sex abuse while working at parishes under their jurisdiction.

“Let's be blunt,” said the letter, “church officials recruit, educate, ordain, hire, train, transfer, shield and cover up for many of these predators. The least church officials can do, then, is to alert the public about them when they prove to be dangerous.”

Clohessy and two members of SNAP from the Carolinas tried to deliver their letter to the bishop, but discovered he was in Asheville. Instead, they spoke with David Hains, Jugis' spokesman, who said later that diocesan officials will “look at the requests they're making and get back to them.”

Since 2002, Hains said, all 190 U.S. Catholic dioceses have had identical policies in place – available at www.charlottediocese.org – “that are very carefully designed to protect children.”

In the past year, the diocese has run 2,400 background checks. And, since 2002, a total of 15,700 employees and volunteers have attended training sessions on how to recognize and prevent sexual abuse.

The 46-county Charlotte diocese had a different set of policies in 1999, when Yurgel, a Franciscan priest assigned to St. Matthew church in Ballantyne, is accused of having sex with the teenager, who is now 23.

Hains said Jugis visits parishes whenever priests have been removed because of abuse allegations.

But Jugis has not discussed the Yurgel case with members of St. Matthew or Our Lady of Consolation, where Yurgel was also briefly assigned. Jugis and retired Bishop William Curlin, who was in charge of the diocese at the time of the alleged abuse, have declined interviews. Hains has said the diocese knew nothing about the accusations until Yurgel was arrested.

The Rev. John McSweeney, who became pastor at St. Matthew after Yurgel left, has apologized to his congregation and urged anybody with information about Yurgel to come forward.

Yurgel, now 43, was arrested in April and charged with five counts of taking indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense. He was taken into custody in New Jersey, where he is a hospital chaplain. He was transported to Charlotte, freed on $225,000 bond and is back in New Jersey. His religious order, the Capuchin Franciscan Friars, paid the bond.

Yurgel's case appears to be the first involving a Catholic priest in which the alleged incidents happened in Charlotte.

A national group representing victims of child sex abuse by priests called Wednesday for Charlotte Catholic Bishop Peter Jugis to be more aggressive in seeking out other possible victims in the case of a priest charged with having sex with a 14-year-old Charlotte boy in 1999.

At a news conference outside the offices of the Diocese of Charlotte, members of SNAP – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – urged Jugis to visit the two Charlotte parishes where the Rev. Robert Yurgel was assigned, and personally encourage anyone with information to come forward.

“We're here today to beg Charlotte's bishop to act like a genuine shepherd,” said SNAP national director David Clohessy, a victim himself when he was a child in Missouri. “It's crucial that bishops follow the example Jesus Christ set in the parable of the lost sheep, where Jesus said, ‘Leave the 99 (sheep) and go out into the cold and the dark and … and find that one, lost, wounded person.'”

In a letter to Jugis, SNAP also pushed for him to follow the lead of 15 other U.S. bishops, who have posted on their Web sites the names, photos and present locations of all priests accused of sex abuse while working at parishes under their jurisdiction.

“Let's be blunt,” said the letter, “church officials recruit, educate, ordain, hire, train, transfer, shield and cover up for many of these predators. The least church officials can do, then, is to alert the public about them when they prove to be dangerous.”

Clohessy and two members of SNAP from the Carolinas tried to deliver their letter to the bishop, but discovered he was in Asheville. Instead, they spoke with David Hains, Jugis' spokesman, who said later that diocesan officials will “look at the requests they're making and get back to them.”

Since 2002, Hains said, all 190 U.S. Catholic dioceses have had identical policies in place – available at www.charlottediocese.org – “that are very carefully designed to protect children.”

In the past year, the diocese has run 2,400 background checks. And, since 2002, a total of 15,700 employees and volunteers have attended training sessions on how to recognize and prevent sexual abuse.

The 46-county Charlotte diocese had a different set of policies in 1999, when Yurgel, a Franciscan priest assigned to St. Matthew church in Ballantyne, is accused of having sex with the teenager, who is now 23.

Hains said Jugis visits parishes whenever priests have been removed because of abuse allegations.

But Jugis has not discussed the Yurgel case with members of St. Matthew or Our Lady of Consolation, where Yurgel was also briefly assigned. Jugis and retired Bishop William Curlin, who was in charge of the diocese at the time of the alleged abuse, have declined interviews. Hains has said the diocese knew nothing about the accusations until Yurgel was arrested.

The Rev. John McSweeney, who became pastor at St. Matthew after Yurgel left, has apologized to his congregation and urged anybody with information about Yurgel to come forward.

Yurgel, now 43, was arrested in April and charged with five counts of taking indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense. He was taken into custody in New Jersey, where he is a hospital chaplain. He was transported to Charlotte, freed on $225,000 bond and is back in New Jersey. His religious order, the Capuchin Franciscan Friars, paid the bond.

Yurgel's case appears to be the first involving a Catholic priest in which the alleged incidents happened in Charlotte.

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