Former South Carolina Catholic priest charged with sexual abuse of 11 year old

The State [Columbia SC]

January 7, 2023

By Ted Clifford

A Catholic priest who served in the Charleston Diocese has been charged with federal sex crimes.

Jaime Adolfo Gonzalez-Farias, known as “Father Gonzalez,” was arrested by the U.S. Marshall Service in Miami, Florida on Nov. 29, according to records filed in South Carolina federal court. He is being remanded to South Carolina where he will face allegations that he sexually abused an 11-year-old.

In a recently unsealed indictment, Gonzalez-Farias is charged with aggravated sexual abuse of children, coercion of a minor and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Beginning Oct. 17, 2020, Gonzalez-Farias sought to “persuade, induce, entice and coerce” the 11-year-old victim, named in the indictment as Minor Victim 1, to engage in sex with him, the indictment states.

Between Nov. 8 and Nov. 12, 2020, Gonzalez-Farias is accused of transporting the child to Florida and engaging in the “intentional touching, not through the clothing, of (the victim’s) genitalia,” according to the indictment.

A statement provided from the The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston said that they were “made aware of an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor involving visiting priest Father Jaime Gonzalez-Farias in December 2020, after he had left the country for his home in Chile.”

“In January 2021, we notified his parishioners about the abuse allegation. Subsequently, retired Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone determined that there were reasonable grounds to believe the allegation. Initially, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Department investigated the allegation; however, the matter was referred to federal authorities. We have cooperated fully with both law enforcement agencies,” according to the statement.

Gonzalez-Farias, 68, was ordained as priest in September 1990. On April 20, 2015 he was transferred to South Carolina; the Diocese of Charleston listed him as visiting priest of the Diocese of San Bernardo, Chile.

“At that time, diocesan officials received a clear background check on him. (Gonzalez-Farias) then completed the Diocese’s Safe Environment training. In accordance with diocesan policy, he was rescreened in July 2020; no criminal activity was noted on that report,” according to the statement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston.

During his time in South Carolina, Gonzalez-Farias served in “various parishes and ministries,” according to the indictment.

An announcement of new assignments for priests made by the diocese published on the Diocese’s website on July 30, 2020 stated that Gonzalez-Farias was to “be administrator of St. Mark Church in Newberry, Holy Spirit Mission in Laurens, and St. Boniface Mission in Joanna; and chaplain to Tyger River Correctional Institution and to Presbyterian College.”

In August 2021, Gonzalez-Farias was included on the diocese’s list of “Visiting Priests with a Credible Allegations of Child Sexual Misconduct or Abuse within the Diocese of Charleston.” At the time, the diocese stated that his whereabouts were “Unknown – believed to have returned to Chile.”

The Diocese describes the list as the result of “allegations received by the Diocese and a review of priest personnel files, as well as relevant diocesan clergy or other files (including any files classified as confidential).”

The Diocese of Charleston first released the list in 2019 after committing to a review of sexual abuse and misconduct with children in the clergy. Gonzalez-Farias was not named on the list at the time.

Gonzalez-Farias’ bishop in Chile was alerted to allegations at the time, but the Diocese of Charleston stated that there were not aware of what action was taken after that.

Gonzalez-Farias is being returned to South Carolina, where he will be prosecuted by the United State’s Attorney’s Office of South Carolina. If convicted, he faces a minimum of ten years in federal prison for the charges of coercing a minor and transporting a minor for purposes of sex. The federal charge of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor carries a minimum of 30 years and up to life in prison. Elliott B. Daniels is listed as the lead prosecutor.

In Miami, Gonzalez-Farias was represented by Federal Public Defender Kate Mollison. Court records do not indicate whether a defense attorney has been assigned in South Carolina.

This story was originally published January 7, 2023 4:33 PM.

TED CLIFFORD 631-810-9272 Ted Clifford is the crime and courts reporter at The State. He covers criminal justice and public safety in the Midlands and across South Carolina.