New lawsuit details alleged sexual abuse by former Myrtle Beach Catholic priest

Post and Courier [Myrtle Beach SC]

November 11, 2021

By Richard Caines

An Horry County man accused a former priest at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach of sexually abusing him in the early 1990s while he served as an altar boy.

The man, anonymously known in a lawsuit filed on Nov. 3 as “John Doe,” said he volunteered at the church under Father Robert Kelly, who was a priest at the church from 1990-1994 and later died in 2004.

The suit claims the Diocese of Charleston, which operates the church, and its bishop were “complicit in facilitating a hunting field for young boys by pedophile priests which caused horrific damage to countless children, including the plaintiff.”

John Doe is asking for an unspecified amount of damages from the Diocese of Charleston.

In a statement, the church said, “We have received a copy of the lawsuit and are currently reviewing it. We will respond to the pleading in due time.”

John Doe said he repressed his earlier memories of the alleged events but starting in January 2021, several events in his personal life caused him to reflect on the past.

“He started to have vivid flashbacks of the abuse by Kelly and realized that he too had been one of the many victims of a predatory priest in the Catholic church,” the lawsuit said.

The man claims the events started when he began volunteering as an altar boy at the church’s early service and was the only person in the room where robes and objects used during mass were kept, known as the priest’s sacristy.

As he spent more time with Father Kelly, the man alleges the priest started making him uncomfortable with inappropriate contact, including leaving hands in his mouth for too long after administering communion, according to the lawsuit.

At some point, the lawsuit claims that Kelly’s behavior continued from “inappropriate grooming to explicit sexual misconduct.”

“Plaintiff was a young boy and had no idea that kissing, touching and fondling by a Priest was not common behavior,” the lawsuit said.

Joe Doe claims that he recalls multiple instances of oral sex in the priest’s sacristy before church.

The man also alleges the same occurrences happened to other altar boys who served at the church around the same time he did.

“The Diocese and Bishop had a duty and responsibility to protect Plaintiff from an abusive and exploitive Priest,” the lawsuit said. “Because Plaintiff was so young at the time of these acts, he did not understand that these behaviors were inappropriate, especially from someone in a position of power such as Kelly.”

Richard Caines covers courts and other topics in Horry and Georgetown County for The Post and Courier. He graduated from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University and is a huge Philadelphia sports fan. @rickcaines