Greenville priest abused power in sexual relationship with parishioner, lawsuit alleges

GREENVILLE — A former parishioner has accused the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in West Greenville of using his position to manipulate her into a sexual relationship, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

Following the allegations, the Diocese of Charleston placed Fr. Wilbroad Mwape on leave, according to a statement from the Support Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which has expressed support for the plaintiff. 

The lawsuit states that Mwape met the plaintiff while he was a priest at Holy Trinity in Orangeburg, where he served for about five years, and where she was a member. Mwape provided the plaintiff with counseling during that time, the complaint said.

Mwape, who the complaint states was aware of the plaintiff’s marital issues through his position as her priest, was transferred to St. Anthony’s in the summer of 2020. According to the lawsuit, he invited the former parishioner to St. Anthony’s rectory following the transfer, where he made a sexual advance which she rejected and “expressed that this behavior was wrong.”

Soon after, the two began a sexual relationship that continued into 2021 in which the plaintiff spent the night in the rectory and met Mwape at motels during monthly trips he took to Columbia.

The suit states the sexual relationship was an abuse of power that seriously impacted the plaintiff.

“Plaintiff admired, trusted, revered, and respected Mwape as a holy man, authority figure, advisor, role model, and counselor,” the complaint states. “As a result, Plaintiff entrusted her personal safety to Mwape, shared with Mwape her most confidential information, and she took direction from him.”

The lawsuit also states that the Diocese of Charleston and its Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, who are also named as defendants, were negligent in their failure to prevent Mwape from engaging in a sexual relationship with one of his former parishioners.

None of the defendants have filed a response to the lawsuit, which was filed Aug. 2

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