Diocese of Charleston releases list of credibly accused priests – Live 5 News WCSC

Diocese of Charleston releases list of credibly accused priests - Live 5 News WCSC

Charleston Catholic Diocese releases names of 42 priests accused of child sex crimes

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – The Diocese of Charleston Friday released a list of priests it says were credibly accused of sexual misconduct or abuse of a minor.

In part, the statement read, It is my fervent hope and prayer that publishing this list will help bring healing to the victims and their families who have been so grievously harmed by the betrayal of priests and Church leadership.

Diocese spokesperson Maria Aselage said one of the names on the list, Father Robert Joseph Kelly, is from the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown; he is not Monsignor Robert Justin Kelly, a diocesan priest, who passed away in 2004.

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The diocese encourages victims of sexual misconduct or abuse by Church personnel to contact law enforcement authorities in the area where the abuse occurred.

The Diocese of Charleston released its list of South Carolina priests who have had a credible allegation of child sexual misconduct against them. The late Rev. Robert E. Spangenberg who served at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Charleston (above), was among the names. Matthew Fortner/Staff

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston is located at the end of Orange Grove Road in West Ashley. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

Pope Francis leaves his studio window overlooking St. Peters Square at the end of the Angelus noon prayer at the Vatican in 2018. On Friday, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston announced the names of priests in South Carolina credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors dating back to 1950. File/Gregorio Borgia/AP

The Diocese of Charleston released its list of South Carolina priests who have had a credible allegation of child sexual misconduct against them. The late Rev. Robert E. Spangenberg who served at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Charleston (above), was among the names. Matthew Fortner/Staff

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston is located at the end of Orange Grove Road in West Ashley. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

Pope Francis leaves his studio window overlooking St. Peters Square at the end of the Angelus noon prayer at the Vatican in 2018. On Friday, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston announced the names of priests in South Carolina credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors dating back to 1950. File/Gregorio Borgia/AP

The Roman Catholic Church late Friday released its list of 42 South Carolina priests who have a credible allegation of child sexual misconduct — 10 more than it reported five years ago.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said the list was released in the spirit of transparency and accountability.

He said he hopes publishing the names of the priests will help bring healing to the victims and their families who have been grievously harmed by the betrayal of priests and church leadership.

The victims of sexual abuse and their families have suffered much pain and are understandably hurt and angry,” he said. “We must continue to pray and care for our brothers and sisters who have experienced this trauma inflicted by priests they trusted.

“We also need to honor the courage of those who have come forward to share the most intimate and painful experiences of their entire lives,” he added. “My heart hurts for the victims and the damage this has caused to them and to their families.

The church released the names in four separate lists. No one on any of the lists still serves as a priest.

The longest of the four lists contains 21 names of diocesan priests who were ordained between 1940 and 1994. All but four are deceased. The list does not mention the parishes or institutions where they served.

The church also listed six others who were visiting priests or with a religious order. All are either deceased, departed or dismissed from the ministry, except for two whose statuses are unknown but are believed to have left the country, the church said.

A third list includes seven priests who served in South Carolina without incident but face a credible allegation of child sexual misconduct or abuse in another state. 

For instance, the late Rev. Robert E. Spangenberg served as a pastor at St. Patrick Catholic Church in downtown Charleston from 1990 through 1993, but his service here has not yet led to a credible allegation against him. However, Spangenberg was among more than 300 Roman Catholic priests named by a grand jury in Pennsylvania last year.

The final list includes eight priests listed because of a class-action settlement payment. The only one on that list who is not dead left the Catholic priesthood in 1983.

The Rev. Eugene Luke Condon was considered popular during his time here but pleaded guilty in 1998 to committing lewd acts on boys.

Investigators looking into Condon discovered a trunk containing about 150 photographs of naked adolescent boys taken in the rectory of Stella Maris Catholic Church on Sullivans Island.

Another Charleston church official named was the Rev. Raymond DuMouchel, who died in 2006 while awaiting trial on charges that he sexually assaulted three young women in the 1950s in Charleston.

The Rev. Justin Goodwin, who died in 1995 at age 90, was arrested the year before for molesting at least four children between 1978 and 1979 when he was the priest at Blessed Sacrament Church in West Ashley.

Church officials responded by placing him on administrative leave in 1994, telling him not to associate with children and forbade him from celebrating Mass. 

Goodwins four victims ultimately received $37,500 each from the diocese. No support for medical or psychological treatment was offered when they settled with the diocese.

Basil Congro, a former pastor in Charleston, was put on administrative leave in 2002 and not allowed to function as a priest.

Congro, who was pastor of Jesus, Our Risen Savior Catholic Church in Spartanburg, was suspended after the Diocesan Sexual Abuse Advisory Board determined a mans abuse allegation against him was credible.

Congro was accused of the abuse in the 1980s, when the victim was between 15 and 19 and when Congro was a priest at St. Marys Catholic Church in East Islip, N.Y. He also appears on the list as having a credible allegation against him in South Carolina.

Congro, who moved here in the early 1990s, also was pastor of St. Patrick and Our Lady of Mercy in Charleston, St. Mary on Yonges Island, Saints Frederick and Stephen on Edisto Island, and St. Anthony in Florence.

The dioceses move is expected to stir emotions not just among those who were abused by the priests but for other victims, as well, said Carole Swiecicki, executive director of the Dee Norton Lowcountry Childrens Center, which works with child victims of sexual abuse.

Just a release of these names could be a trigger to anyone who has experienced abuse,” she said Friday. “Its a reminder that abuse happened, and it reminds them that their abuse happened.

I think people like to think that theyre immune to this happening in their backyard, but this is a reminder that this happens everywhere and it could happen here and in every family,” she added. “Adults have to take steps to keep this from happening to children and to know what to do if something happens.

Zach Hiner, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in St. Louis, said the release of this list comes very late but does at least provide public acknowledgement by the diocese.

He said he hopes this acknowledgement will help push victims, especially those suffering in silence, to get help.

He also commended the dioceses decision to include names of priests affiliated with religious orders, those who were visiting priests and priests who served in South Carolina that had allegations of abuse outside of the Diocese of Charleston.

Other lists that Hiner has seen were more limited. Ideally, he would have liked to have seen more details on priests parishes, work histories and even photos. He said he hopes local and state authorities will open up independent investigations.

David Flowers, a retired Greenville attorney who has represented victims abused within the Diocese of Charleston and in other states, recognized the second name on the list, the late John Bench Jr.

“He (Bench) actually admitted to molesting a 10-year-old girl and got down on his knees and begged the girls parents for forgiveness,” Flowers said, speaking about a victim he represented in Pickens County.

A few years later, church officials sent the girls parents a letter asking their thoughts on reinstating Bench as an active priest.

Though the church has had a policy on addressing allegations of sexual misconduct against children by church personnel for years, Flowers said he believes misconduct is still occurring in the diocese.

A special advisory board, including 10 people not employed by the diocese and one priest, compiled the list of priests whose allegations occurred between 1950 and the present, and Guglielmone accepted all of the boards recommendations, the church said.

The list reflects the information reasonably available to the Diocese at the present time, the church said in a statement. The Diocese continues to encourage all victims of abuse to first report that abuse to law enforcement, and then to contact the Dioceses Victims Assistance Coordinator.

South Carolina is the most recent state for which the Catholic Church unveiled a list of priests who sexually abused minors, part of its ongoing campaign to reckon with a dark chapter of its past and to help victims of it heal.

At least 14 other state dioceses have released their collection of names since the Pennsylvania grand jury report in July.

Even as these lists are made public, a sense of closure can be elusive. David Clohessy, former national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and current volunteer director for SNAP in Missouri, said the first priority is stopping further abuse.

“The single most ignored question is how many years have Catholic officials sat on these names,” Clohessy said.

In 2014, reports said 32 priests in the Diocese of Charleston faced credible allegations, and that number grew by 10 because of priests who served here but whose names surfaced on lists in other dioceses and because of some new allegations being seen as credible.

The Diocese of Charlestons list could be updated publicly with new names if further allegations are made and deemed credible.

Omitted from Fridays list of names were three priests who are currently being sued, one priest who faces a criminal investigation, and two priests facing further review by the dioceses Sexual Abuse Advisory Board.

The diocese has revised its policy of reporting allegations of sexual abuse by priests several times over the years. The policy was revised in 1984 and then updated in 1997 and 2002.

In 2007, the diocese set aside $12 million to settle claims of parishioners who said they were abused by priests in years past.

Last year, the diocese faced new allegations of sexual abuse from two people who said their repressed memories of incidents from the 1950s and 1960s surfaced recently due to news reports and other litigation.

One suit stated that a victim who was 10 to 12 years old in the mid-1950s was sexually abused by Frederick Hopwood, a Charleston priest known for sex crimes who died in 2017. Hopwood was on the released list.

In 1994, he admitted to repeatedly molesting an altar boy in the early 70s. He pleaded guilty to one count of a lewd act upon a minor after at least 10 men came forward with stories of abuse. As part of an agreement with prosecutors, he received statewide immunity from further prosecution.

The victim in the latest lawsuit said he remembered Hopwood saying that if he told anyone about the misconduct, he and his family “would be excommunicated and they would all go to hell,” according to the suit.

The Diocese of Charlestons list was released on the same day that Pope Francis issued new legislation that requires Vatican City State and Vatican diplomats to immediately report allegations to Vatican prosecutors. The church also issued child protection guidelines for Vatican City State and its youth seminary.

On Friday, Bishop Guglielmone called for South Carolina Catholic churches to participate in this resurgence of holiness.

We in the church must continue to strengthen the protections provided to our children and young people in our parishes and schools, he said. With your help, our church will become stronger and the crisis we now face will result in the purification of the church.

Seven priests with credible allegation of child sexual misconduct or abuse within the Diocese of Charleston were criminally convicted:

Anyone who feels they have been abused by a priest should contact local law enforcement. They also may contact the Dioceses Victim Assistance Coordinator Louisa Storen at 1-800-921-8122 for access to pastoral resources and counseling referrals.

Adults seeking help with the emotional impact may contact the Medical University of South Carolinas National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at 843-792-8209. Parents seeking help for their children may contact the Dee Norton Lowcountry Childrens Center at 843-723-3600.

The following are priests with a credible allegation of child sexual misconduct or abuse within the Diocese of Charleston and their status:

The following are religious order or visiting priests with a credible allegation of child sexual misconduct or abuse within the Diocese of Charleston:

The following are diocesan or order priests with a credible allegation of child sexual misconduct or abuse outside the Diocese of Charleston:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston will release the names of priests in South Carolina credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors dating back to 1950, the diocese announced Friday. The names will be released by mid-February.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. Hes a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.


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