|Suit Accuses Retired Priest of Abuse
By Lindsay Melvin
Memphis Commercial Appeal
August 26, 2008
It's sixth legal action filed against St. Charles
Once again, allegations of sexual abuse have surfaced against a retired Catholic priest.
The allegations are contained in the sixth lawsuit accusing former Memphian Rev. Paul W. St. Charles, 70, of child molestation.
In a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Memphis, a Bartlett man identified as "John Doe" alleges he was abused during the 1970s when he was in the eighth grade and was an altar boy at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Frayser. St. Charles was director of a youth organization at the church.
The suit claims the abuse occurred in the front seat of St. Charles' car at a drive-in movie.
"He's abused a ton of people," said David Brown, coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in Memphis.
Although five people have taken legal action against St. Charles over the years, Brown claims many more have told SNAP they've been abused by the same priest.
At least three of the suits have been settled.
Standing on the steps of the Shelby County Courthouse on Monday to announce a new victim had come forward, Brown pointed to the Catholic church next door and said, "They turn their backs on the victims and the victims have to search for justice over here."
Father John Geaney, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Memphis, says the diocese has always acted in the best interest of children.
"We are very clear about the fact that we want to do everything we can to make sure the children are protected," he said.
But the diocese has been criticized for not notifying authorities earlier of allegations.
Responding to a complaint two years after it was made, in 2004, Bishop J. Terry Steib suspended St. Charles from any priestly duties.
A diocesan review board found that "more likely than not" he had engaged in inappropriate activity with minors and found complaints going back 30 years.
Following reports of his suspension, other alleged victims began surfacing, including a plaintiff in 2005 who also claimed St. Charles molested him at a drive-in.
Before retiring in 1986, St. Charles was a Catholic Youth Organization leader -- a social group for teens -- at Our Lady of Sorrows and pastor at Church of the Ascension.
Now living in Nashville, St. Charles is battling a weak heart and a neuromuscular disease that has put him in a wheelchair.
He said in a telephone interview Monday that he was unaware of the newest lawsuit, but said he was never a child molester.
"I'm just counting the days, waiting for the Lord to take me," he said. "And when I stand before the Lord, my conscience is clear."
- Lindsay Melvin: 529-2445
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