Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are answers to questions about the issue of child sexual abuse by clergy and the list of those accused published on this site. The accompanying glossary generally defines the issues and terms used on this website. For information, please see the Diocese of Charlotte’s ethics and sexual misconduct policies here.

The list contains the names of 14 clergy who were credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor in the Diocese of Charlotte since it was established in 1972. Summarized are the allegations considered credible as a result of action by civil authorities, findings by the diocese’s Lay Review Board, or as the result of an independent comprehensive review of the diocese’s personnel and other files in 2019.

Separately, information is provided on credibly accused clergy who served in western North Carolina before the Diocese of Charlotte was established, when the Diocese of Raleigh oversaw the Catholic Church across the state. Also noted are clergy who served in western North Carolina without allegations documented in our files but who were publicly named by other dioceses and religious orders as credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults and other sexual misconduct. Please refer to those other lists for details on the selection criteria used.

This list will be updated as additional relevant information becomes available. Information sources included the Charlotte diocese’s personnel and other files, communications and publications from other dioceses or religious orders, findings of the diocese’s 2019 file review, criminal and court records and published reports. Not included is information from anonymous letters, claims with no victim identified, allegations of sexual misconduct involving adults, and claims unrelated to sexual abuse of minors.

In the fall of 2018, the diocese set in motion a multilayered process to publish a comprehensive list of clergy who were credibly accused of child sexual abuse in the diocese since it was established in 1972.

The diocese automatically placed on the list the names of clergy who admitted to allegations or who were charged by civil authorities with child sexual abuse offenses. In addition, the diocese placed on the list all clergy who had an allegation determined by the diocese’s Lay Review Board to be credible, that is to have at least the semblance of truth, since the board was formed in 2002.

To ensure that all historical allegations were identified in the diocese’s files, which date back 47 years, the diocese engaged an independent investigative firm to review all of its 1,600 priest, deacon and religious brother personnel records and other historical archives for any indication of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Their review of more than 150,000 pages identified a small number of additional clergy with credible documented allegations from years ago.

We know from hearing the stories of sexual abuse victims that making the names of abusers known provides validation and can promote healing – and a culture that allows victims to come forward.

No. Since 2002, when the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted, the diocese has had a zero-tolerance policy: No clergy may serve in ministry who are known to have a credible allegation of child sexual abuse against them. The diocese’s 2019 file review confirmed that no clergy in ministry here have a credible abuse allegation against them.

Reflecting national trends, most abuse allegations deemed credible in the Charlotte diocese occurred in the 1970s and declined before dropping sharply in the 2000s.

One instance of abuse is alleged to have occurred since 2002, when the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted. The accused priest was reported to civil authorities and removed from ministry, as required by the Charter and diocesan policy.

Most allegations reported since 2002 involved abuse dating back two decades or more.

The exploitation of a child for the sexual gratification of an adult. Sexual abuse includes acts of incest, rape or sexual offenses in any degree, sodomy and unnatural or perverted sexual practices, lewd or indecent acts or proposals, including exhibitionism, touching or fondling, permitting or encouraging a child to participate in acts of pornography or prostitution.

Yes. Sacraments administered by an ordained priest are valid regardless of whether he is later removed from ministry or stops functioning as a priest. The validity of the sacrament depends upon the saving action of Christ, not on the personal holiness of the priest conferring it. The only requirements for a priest to administer a sacrament are that he be validly ordained and given authority by the Church to do so.

When the diocese receives a report of sexual abuse of a minor, it immediately reports the allegation to civil authorities as required by law – and encourages those who come forward to report directly to police.

The accused clergy member is immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, as outlined in the diocese’s sexual misconduct policy. If a priest is assigned to a parish, the congregation is typically informed about the reason for his absence.

The diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator assists in arranging for counseling and treatment for the reporting party, if desired, no matter when or where the abuse occurred.

The diocese’s Lay Review Board investigates to recommend whether an allegation should be considered credible by the diocese and to make recommendations to the bishop. If an allegation is considered credible, the clergy member remains out of ministry unless and until subsequent adjudication proves the allegation is not credible. Ultimately, the cleric may face other sanctions in the Church that could include dismissal from the priesthood.

A credible allegation is one that has the semblance of truth; one supported by information worthy of belief. It is not a finding of guilt.

In cases involving alleged sexual abuse of a minor, it is a determination that requires the immediate removal of a cleric from ministry and any other assigned duties unless and until it is determined the allegation is not credible through civil or ecclesiastical adjudication.

Factors that may help determine credibility include whether:

  • the accused cleric has admitted the abuse
  • an allegation is corroborated by external information
  • there are allegations from more than one identifiable person
  • the accused has been publicized or named on a list of credibly accused clergy by other dioceses or religious orders
  • there is information obtained through criminal, civil or ecclesiastical proceedings

Since 2002, when the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted, each diocese must maintain an advisory board of mostly lay people not employed by the diocese to independently review allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy or other Church personnel.

The board hears testimony from victims, witnesses and accused clergy, and may employ a professional investigator to examine allegations and determine credibility. If it finds an allegation credible, the board recommends to the bishop any disciplinary action, pastoral care for the victim, and other responses. It periodically evaluates the effectiveness of the diocese’s policies and procedures related to the protection of minors, and offers advice and recommendations to the bishop.

In the Charlotte diocese, members of the Lay Review Board include an experienced pastor (as required by the Charter) and people with expertise in counseling/psychology, law enforcement, investigation, business, law, community affairs, and advocacy for the rights of children and victims. All board members share a commitment to ensuring the diocese is safeguarding children from sexual abuse by clergy or other Church personnel. Due to the highly sensitive and independent nature of their proceedings, their work is confidential.

Under the 2002 Charter, each diocese must operate a Safe Environment program, which includes mandatory training for all clergy, employees and volunteers of the diocese. More than 50,000 people have been trained in the 46 counties served by the Charlotte diocese. Details about the diocese’s Safe Environment program can be found here.

In addition, priests and other Church personnel must abide by a code of conduct, which includes certain rules meant specifically to prevent children from potentially unsafe situations. For example, no children may travel with clergy or a Church worker unaccompanied by other adults, and Church personnel generally can’t be alone with a child except in rare circumstances. The complete Code of Ethics can be found here.

No. The diocese has a zero-tolerance policy. No clergy member with a credible allegation of sexual abuse against him may serve in ministry – no matter when or where the alleged abuse occurred.

Before the Charter was adopted in 2002, allegations were handled based on evolving clinical, psychological and societal standards at the time. The Church, like most institutions, did not fully understand the pathology of abusers and worked with the psychiatric community in attempts to treat the illness. Priests were occasionally sent for treatment and counseling, then returned with a psychiatric endorsement declaring them fit for ministry.

Today, under the Charter, no clergy member or Church worker credibly accused of sexual abuse can return to ministry – and all allegations are reported to civil authorities.

The Charlotte diocese takes an active role in ensuring that only candidates who are fit to serve the people of God are placed in ministry.

In fact, the diocese started its own college seminary in 2016 that ensures the diocese knows its candidates well and is involved in their formation, and to reduce reliance on clergy from other dioceses and religious communities.

All seminary candidates undergo detailed background checks and psychological evaluation, and are regularly reviewed for fitness to ensure they are ready and willing to commit to a priestly vocation and its vow of celibacy. They also participate in Safe Environment training and are carefully instructed in the diocese’s policies to safeguard the young and vulnerable.

Clergy coming to the diocese from elsewhere also undergo background checks and Safe Environment training. They also must submit information from their personnel files and a letter of good standing from their supervising diocese or religious order before being assigned to serve in the Charlotte diocese.

The diocese’s Safe Environment office monitors and assesses ongoing compliance with the reporting and other protocols outlined in the 2002 Charter for the Protection for Children and Young People.

In addition, the diocese undergoes annual audits by an independent firm contracted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to measure compliance and determine the effectiveness of the protective measures required by the Charter. Every three years, the firm completes a rigorous on-site audit to ensure compliance. You can read the latest audit results here.

The diocese’s Lay Review Board also regularly reviews the diocese’s policies and procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct.

Recently, the diocese launched a new independent ethics hotline for reporting sexual abuse, operated by Red Flag Reporting. The hotline allows people to speak up, anonymously or not, when suspected sexual abuse or other unethical activity is noted – 24 hours a day, by phone or the web, in English or Spanish. Related software also helps systematize and track how allegations are being handled once a report is received and shared with the diocese for internal disciplinary purposes.

Glossary

Standard procedure under the Diocese of Charlotte’s sexual misconduct policy; any clergy member or Church personnel accused of sexual abuse of a minor is temporarily relieved of assigned duties pending the outcome of an inquiry. It does not imply guilt or innocence.

A comprehensive set of procedures adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 to prevent and address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and other Church personnel. The Charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing and accountability. The document is periodically updated and was revised in 2005, 2011 and 2018.

Bishops, priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters, lay employees and lay volunteers involved in ministry or work for the Diocese of Charlotte.

The 2002 Charter (see above) establishes that all allegations of child sexual abuse received by the Church must be reported to civil authorities for evaluation and possible action. Authorities may include law enforcement, social services, and/or state officials.

A collective term referring to ordained ministers of the Catholic Church (bishops, priests and deacons).

An allegation that has the semblance of truth; one supported by information worthy of belief. A credible allegation is not a finding of guilt.

In cases involving alleged sexual abuse of a minor, it is a determination that requires the immediate removal of a cleric from ministry and any other assigned duties unless and until it is determined the allegation is not credible through civil or ecclesiastical adjudication.

Factors that may help determine credibility include whether:

  • the accused cleric has admitted the abuse
  • an allegation is corroborated by external information
  • there are allegations from more than one identifiable person
  • the accused has been publicized or named on a list of credibly accused clergy by other dioceses or religious orders
  • there is information obtained through criminal, civil or ecclesiastical proceedings

A man ordained to ministry of service. He may be married and can preside at baptisms, weddings and funerals. He also may preach at Mass or other services but may not preside at Mass or offer the sacraments of penance, confirmation or anointing of the sick.

A territory or portion of the faithful entrusted to the pastoral care of a bishop.

Established in 1972, the territory encompassing the 46 counties of western North Carolina and comprised of 92 parishes and missions, and 19 schools. The diocese has been led by Bishop Peter J. Jugis since 2003.

Established in 1924, the Raleigh diocese encompassed all of North Carolina until 1972 when the Diocese of Charlotte was established. The Raleigh diocese today encompasses 54 counties of eastern North Carolina and comprises 97 parishes and missions, and 29 schools. The diocese is led by Bishop Luis R. Zarama.

A man ordained a priest to serve in a diocese under the authority of a bishop. By contrast, a religious order priest is ordained to serve as part of a particular religious community – for example, the Benedictines and the Jesuits – whose work may include duties across many dioceses. Religious order priests serve under the authority of their religious superior, who directs their work assignments and discipline.

A clergy member’s authorization to function legitimately. A bishop or superior of a religious community can restrict or revoke a cleric’s faculties to minister in the Church. Clergy can also have restricted faculties which limits their ministry.

The wide-ranging development, training and evaluation men undergo before being ordained, beginning even before they are invited to enter a seminary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ program of priestly formation grounded in scripture and Church teachings, lays out four pillars of formation: Human, Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral. In addition, the Charlotte diocese employs a comprehensive screening process and has opened its own college seminary to ensure it accepts – and develops its own – men of integrity and high moral character for ordained ministry.

The term used when clergy become members of a particular diocese or religious order.

Under the 2002 Charter (see above), each diocese must maintain an advisory board of mostly lay people not employed by the diocese to independently review allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy and Church personnel. In the Charlotte diocese, the board hears testimony from victims, witnesses and accused clergy, and employs a professional investigator to examine allegations and help determine whether they should be considered credible by the diocese. The board offers its opinion on credibility to the bishop and makes recommendations on disciplinary action, pastoral care for victims, and other responses. It periodically evaluates the effectiveness of the diocese’s policies and procedures related to the protection of minors and the handling of allegations, and offers advice to the bishop. The board includes an experienced pastor and people with expertise in sexual abuse issues, counseling, investigation, law, and advocacy for children’s and victims’ rights.

Under the diocese’s sexual misconduct policy, all clergy, Church personnel and volunteers are required to report any incident of alleged, known or suspected child sexual abuse to civil authorities.

In North Carolina, a new state law provides, among other things: “Any person 18 years of age or older who knows or should have reasonably known that a juvenile has been or is the victim of a violent offense, sexual offense, or misdemeanor child abuse under G.S. 14-318.2 shall immediately report the case of that juvenile to the appropriate local law enforcement agency in the county where the juvenile resides or is found.”

A person younger than age 18.

The Charlotte diocese offers an independent hotline for for reporting sexual abuse and other unethical conduct for internal investigation and action: 1-888-630-5929 or RedFlagReporting.com/RCDOC.

A man ordained to serve in the Church as a member of a particular religious community – for example, the Benedictines and the Jesuits – whose work may include duties across many dioceses. Religious order priests serve under the authority of their religious superior, who directs their work assignments and discipline. By contrast, a diocesan priest serves solely under a bishop who exercises supervision and provides assignments.

After the preliminary investigation and upon conclusion of the review board’s findings, clergy found credibly accused of child sexual abuse are removed from ministry in two ways:

  • Removal of faculties and office unless and until adjudication beyond the preliminary investigation establishes the cleric’s innocence. Clergy without faculties may still be entitled to some benefits of the Church but may not publicly celebrate Mass, administer sacraments or perform any public ministry. Those removed from ministry (distinct from administrative leave) cannot hold any assignments in a diocese and are not to present themselves as clerics.
  • Dismissal or release from the clerical state, also sometimes called “laicization,” is an action taken by the Holy See in Rome to permanently release a cleric from the duties and obligations of his ordination when he entered the clerical state. Laicized clergy no longer exercise the rights nor are bound by the obligations of the clerical state. They have been returned to the lay state.

The broad term for the policies and training programs every U.S. (arch)diocese employs to comply with the 2002 Charter (see above) so that its churches, schools and youth organizations can ensure children and youth participate in the safest settings possible. Safe environment components in the Diocese of Charlotte include:

  • A code of conduct for clergy, other Church personnel and volunteers that establishes clear and appropriate boundaries for anyone who works with minors.
  • Regular criminal background checks on all clergy, Church personnel and volunteers, whether or not they have contact with minors.
  • Training for all clergy, Church personnel and volunteers who work with minors on being vigilant to signs that a child might have been abused, signs that an adult might be abusing a child, and on what actions to take if they believe child abuse may be occurring. Within the Charlotte diocese, more than 50,000 people have undergone this mandatory training since 2002.
  • Age-appropriate training on personal safety for children.

For information, please contact our Safe Environment program coordinator at (704) 370-3357 or visit https://charlottediocese.org/human-resources/safe-environment.

The exploitation of a child for the sexual gratification of an adult. Sexual abuse includes acts of incest, rape or sexual offenses in any degree, sodomy and unnatural or perverted sexual practices, lewd or indecent acts or proposals, including exhibitionism, touching or fondling, permitting or encouraging a child to participate in acts of pornography or prostitution.

Sexual misconduct is inappropriate touching or overtures of a sexual nature between adults, including: (a) The touching of a private part of another person. Private parts can include the genital or anal areas, the groin, the inner thigh, the buttocks, or the bosom of a female. Touching means either a single incident in which church personnel intentionally brings a part of his/her body or another object into physical contact with a private part of another person, or repeated incidents of the same type, whether intentional or unintentional; (b) Any conduct and/or relationship of a sexual nature that can bring scandal.

An assembly of the Catholic bishops of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands who jointly exercise certain pastoral functions on behalf of the U.S. Catholic population, including the adoption of common policies and procedures – such as the 2002 Charter – that apply to all of their (arch)dioceses.

As prescribed by the 2002 Charter (see above), the Charlotte diocese has appointed a licensed clinical social worker to assist victims of sexual abuse by clergy or other Church personnel. The coordinator connects abuse survivors to available resources no matter where the abuse occurred. For information, please contact David W. Harold, LCSW, at (704) 370-3363 or david.harold@gmail.com.

As prescribed by the 2002 Charter (see above), the Charlotte diocese’s misconduct policy mandates zero tolerance for the employment of any clergy or Church personnel with a credible allegation of child sexual abuse against them. Clergy transferring in from other (arch)dioceses or religious orders must have an unqualified recommendation from their superior before being considered for ministry in the Diocese of Charlotte.