Dec. 31 (UPI) — A Catholic diocese in North Carolina on Monday published the names of 14 clergy it says have been credibly accused of having sexually abused children during its nearly 50-year history.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte also published the names of six credibly accused clergy, now all deceased, who served in western North Carolina before the Charlotte diocese was established in 1972 and a list of 23 names of clergy who served the diocese with no allegations against them in Charlotte but who were named by other dioceses and religious orders of having abused children.
“To all who have been victimized by Catholic clergy, I apologize on behalf of the diocese and express to you personally my heartfelt sorrow for the physical, emotional and spiritual pain you have suffered,” Charlotte Bishop Peter J. Jugis wrote in a letter that accompanied the list of names.
No active clergy members in the diocese were listed among those with credible allegations against them.
The diocese defines a credible allegation as one that is “supported by information worthy of belief,” such as an admission of abuse, a corroborated allegation or the clergy has been named by another diocese or religious order. A credible allegation, it says, is not a finding of guilt but requires the cleric to be removed from the ministry and assigned duties until the allegation is proved not credible.
“You deserved a priest in whom you could place your trust, a model of Jesus the Good,” Jugis wrote. “Regrettably, it is clear in our history that the Catholic Church — including this diocese — did not fully understand the pathology of child sexual abuse or respond to allegations as aggressively as it could have, as we do today.”
Nine of the 14 named clergy are deceased and the remainder were either removed, retired or both. Two, however, were convicted on sexual misconduct charges.
Of the two who were convicted, Robert Yurgel pleaded guilty in February 2009 to felony second-degree sexual offense and served eight years in prison, and Richard Farwell pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was sentenced to probation, according to the diocese.
“It is painful to even try to comprehend such gravely immoral behavior, particularly for those who have carried the burden of sexual abuse by clergy,” Jugis wrote. “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. I pray this step achieves that goal.”
The diocese, which serves more than 400,000 people in 46 counties in western North Carolina, said the lists were the product of over a yearlong review of more than 1,600 files going back nearly 50 years, discovering that instances of abuse in the Charlotte diocese peaked in the 1970s and dropped in the 2000s due to new protections put in place by the church with only one credible allegation occurring in the last 20 years.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein called the allegations in a statement “devastating.”
Stein, who is pushing legislation to strengthen the protection of children from sexual abuse, said he hopes this action “is part of a process to bring some closure and justice to the victim-survivors.”
However, advocates of those who have been abused by the Church criticized the list as incomplete.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said at least four others who were accused were not included on the diocese’s list, including Paul L. Berrell, a music minister at St. Eugene Catholic Church in Asheville who pleaded guilty to producing child pornography in 2010.
“This information that Catholic officials in Charlotte undoubtedly have access to and yet chose not to make public for reasons unknown,” wrote SNAP 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.”
SNAP is calling on the diocese to update its list to provide a complete look at abuse that was committed by its clergy.
The diocese said most of those named in the lists were previously known.