After list of SC Catholic priests accused of abuse, no simple path to healing

Post and Courier

April 25, 2019

By Gregory Yee and Rickey Dennis

For victims of abuse by Catholic priests in South Carolina, the past month has opened old wounds but also fostered new hope.

Since the 1990s, reports have surfaced implicating priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston in the abuse of minors dating back to at least the 1950s — cases that for years were treated in isolation.

As in other dioceses across the country, most of these incidents were handled internally by church leadership. Priests quietly resigned or were shipped off to other jurisdictions. Many victims did not wish for the publicity of a criminal investigation or trial.

On March 29, Charleston Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone released four lists with the names of 42 priests that a South Carolina church panel decided had credible accusations of child sexual misconduct made against them.

Many heralded the move as a long-overdue step in the healing process, a public acknowledgement by diocesan leadership of years of pain and betrayal felt by victims, and a chance for the church and its flock to begin moving forward.

In the weeks since the lists’ release, however, attorneys, victims’ advocates and others have been left pondering whether church leaders have done enough and what should come next.

Guglielmone and other local church leaders have taken and will continue to take steps toward helping victims heal, said Maria Aselage, a spokeswoman for the diocese. The bishop has held seven town hall meetings with parishioners across the state since November.

“During those meetings, he answered questions about the sexual abuse crisis within the Diocese of Charleston and the universal Church,” she said. “Moreover, he attentively listened to the pain that victims suffered and the heartache Catholics felt because of child sexual abuse within the Church.”

Parishioners have told church leaders that those meetings were an important step in the healing process, Aselage said.

The feedback on the list itself has been mixed, she said.

“Several callers were supportive of the bishop and his decision to release the names,” Aselage said. “Other communications were from people surprised and hurt to learn certain priests were on the list.”

An arduous road
In March, as he made the names of accused priests public, Guglielmone said he hoped the move would help bring healing to the victims and their families who have been “grievously harmed by the betrayal of priests and church leadership.”

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