Catholic Diocese of Charleston sued by former altar boy over alleged abuse

WCSC [Charleston SC]

February 8, 2024

By Steven Ardary

A former altar boy is suing the Diocese of Charleston after he says the church failed to protect him from being sexually abused by a priest.

Court documents state an altar boy, who was not identified by name, was groomed and later sexually abused by Father Robert Kelly at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach.

The alleged abuse occurred in the early 1990s. Kelly served as the priest of St. Andrews from 1990-1994. He died in 2004.

Court documents state the Diocese and the Bishop should have known about previous “illicit and improper sexual relationships” by Kelly either before or during his time at the Charleston Diocese.

The alleged abuse began as “kissing, touching and fondling” and the plaintiff did not know it “was not common behavior” for a priest, court documents state.

Court documents state the actions later evolved into sexual abuse and misconduct.

“The Diocese allowed predatory priests to have unsupervised access to young boys, which created the opportunity for some priests to groom and sexually abuse young boys,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges Kelly used his position as priest to have time alone with altar boys and believes other boys may have been subjected to the same abuse.

The lawsuit seeks damages for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty and negligent retention or supervision.

Charleston Diocese spokesperson Maria Aselage said the lawsuit is currently under review.

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