Local Catholic Priest Removed from Post after Sexual Abuse Allegation
September 3, 2013
The pastor of Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Fort Walton Beach has been removed from his post after being accused of sexual abuse. The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee says Monsignor Michael Cherup has been accused of abusing a 15-year-old 20 years ago. At that time, Cherup was assigned to the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pensacola. The state attorney has described the alleged misconduct as being lewd and lascivious in nature, like "groping". The accusation has shaken up those who know Cherup and many others in the community. Thomas Paul, who's homeless, said, "I was very shocked, very surprised. I really don't believe it." Paul says Cherup has fed him and helped him for years. "He's a very good guy," Paul said, "He talked to all of us. When a lot of us were down, he brought us up with the word of prayer." The alleged victim says the abuse happened in 1993 during a trip out of state. Now authorities are trying to figure out which law enforcement agency has jurisdiction to investigate. The diocese released a statement to parishioners and parents of school children over the weekend. It says they were told about the accusation on July 19th and that after an internal investigation they found the allegation to be credible. Cherup was removed from school and church duties last Thursday. Pat Clark, a St. Mary's alumnus, said,"I don't wanna believe that." Clark says he attended elementary school at St. Mary's in the 1960's. "It was a great school," Clark said, "There was no problems at all." The diocese says it encouraged the alleged victim to notify police. It then reported the accusation to the State Attorney's Office. State Attorney Bill Eddins says the victim has not yet contacted authorities and until the person does, there's no further action that can be taken. A support team will be on hand at Saint Mary's School in Fort Walton Beach Tuesday to help students and parents with any questions or concerns.