Greenville News [Greenville SC]
August 5, 2021
By Daniel J. Gross
The pastor of a Catholic church in Greenville has been placed on administrative leave after he was accused of using his position of authority to have a secret sexual relationship with one of his parishioners, according to a lawsuit filed in Orangeburg County this week.
Father Wilbroad Mwape was placed on temporary administrative leave and the local dean, Father Jay Scott Newman, will be the parish administrator in his absence, Maria Aselage, spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, told The Greenville News in a statement Wednesday.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
“This case stems from the Catholic Church’s continued failure to police their priests,” the lawsuit states in its opening page.
The diocese is reviewing the lawsuit and will respond in due time, Aselage said.
Mwape did not return calls or emails for comment.
Phil Allen and Steve Olson, two deacons at the parish in West Greenville, declined to comment.
Manuela Jentsch-McKay, the woman suing Mwape, also did not respond to emails for comment. A phone number for Jentsch-McKay was not found in public records.
Typically, The Greenville News does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault and abuse, however in this case, Jentsch-McKay has publicly identified herself in court documents.
Mwape became the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in West Greenville back in 2020 after being assigned there by the Dioceses of Charleston.
Before then, he was pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Orangeburg.
The 22-page lawsuit, which was filed Monday, alleges Mwape started grooming Jentsch-McKay to engage in a sexual relationship while pastoring Holy Trinity Church. The grooming efforts were “stepped up” considerably when he moved to Greenville.
The lawsuit states Mwape used different Catholic churches as his homes and used them to pursue, groom and have sex with Jentsch-McKay.
He counseled and taught her as she grew in her knowledge of the Catholic faith and used her confession about marital challenges to prey on her vulnerabilities, according to the suit.
“Mwape exploited this knowledge and engaged Plaintiff in increasing forms of sexual behavior. The interaction reached a point where the parishioner spent the night in the rectory, and they engaged in sexual intercourse,” the lawsuit states. “It is best to think of the grooming by offenders as a gradual, calculated process.”
He also used hotel rooms — rooms paid using a credit card from the Diocese of Charleston — to have sex with Jentsch-McKay, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also accused the Diocese of Charleston of hiding Mwape’s sexual conduct, and referenced a pattern of abuses within the Diocese of the Catholic Church.
“In 2018, referring to a particular case in Chile, Pope Francis accused victims of fabricating allegations, but by April, was apologizing for his ‘tragic error’ and by August, was expressing ‘shame and sorrow’ for the tragic history,” the suit states. “Concealment of Mwape’s conduct (and sexually abusive priests in general) has been the hallmark and policy of the Diocese and the Catholic Church.”
Jentsch-McKay, through the lawsuit, is seeking damages to be determined by a jury based on severe pain, suffering and mental anguish.
Mwape, a native of Zambia, has been in the priesthood for 25 years.
He came to the U.S. in 2000 for graduate studies in Washington state. There, he learned courses were offered in Charleston for hospital chaplains through Bon Secours.
Mwape came to South Carolina to complete the course and later became a board hospital certified chaplain before returning to Zambia. He later returned to the Charleston Diocese in 2015.
Jentsch-McKay, of Orangeburg, is represented by Rock Hill attorney Randall Hood.
Hood did not immediately response to voice messages.
An attorney for Mwape and the Diocese of Charleston were not listed in public court records by Wednesday.