Catholic News Herald [Diocese of Charlotte NC]
October 4, 2021
An allegation of child sexual abuse has been reported against a Jesuit priest, Father Francis P. Gillespie, who served at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish more than 20 years ago.
Father Gillespie was pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Church and School from 1994 to 2001, and the abuse is alleged to occurred at the church in the mid- to late 1990s, when the claimant was a student at the school.
The allegation was recently reported to the Diocese of Charlotte and to Father Gillespie’s supervising religious order, the New York-based USA East Province of the Society of Jesus, which removed Father Gillespie from ministry on Sept. 29 while the allegation is investigated.
The Diocese of Charlotte reported the allegation to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and to Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services on Sept. 28. Announcements were made during weekend Masses at Our Lady of the Assumption Church Oct. 2-3, as well as to school families.
The diocese told parishioners it would cooperate fully with any investigation, and said in a statement: “The Charlotte diocese has zero tolerance for child sexual abuse, and anyone who has been the victim of abuse is encouraged to seek help and report to law enforcement authorities.”
“An independent review of the diocese’s personnel and other files in 2019 found no record of abuse allegations from anyone against Gillespie,” the statement also said.
Ordained in 1972, Father Gillespie, now 79, has not served at any other parishes in the Charlotte diocese.
In 2002, the Jesuits assigned him to work in the Diocese of Raleigh, where he served until 2008, then moved him to the Diocese of Charleston, S.C. Father Gillespie was returned to ministry in the Diocese of Raleigh in January 2021, and since August has been serving as administrator of a parish in Laurinburg.
Over the past two decades, the Church has installed sweeping measures to prevent child sexual abuse. In 2002, the U.S. Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, mandating strict protocols for all U.S. dioceses that have continued to be expanded and refined.
In 2019, the diocese published accountability.charlottediocese.org, detailing historical abuse data and a list of 14 clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse since the diocese was established in 1972. Reflecting a national trend, most abuse in the Charlotte diocese was alleged to have occurred decades ago and was not reported until many years later. The diocese has said it will add to the list if additional clergy are found to be credibly accused, no matter when the abuse occurred.