Second person says they were sexually abused by Myrtle Beach priest in 1990s, files suit

Sun News [Myrtle Beach SC]

February 6, 2024

By Emalyn Muzzy

A second former altar boy is suing the Catholic Diocese of Charleston and the bishop of the Charleston diocese, alleging that they allowed a Myrtle Beach priest to sexually abuse him in the 1990s.

The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 8 by a John Doe who wanted to remain anonymous to protect his identity. Doe alleges that the Rev. Robert Kelly abused him in the early 1990s when Kelly was a priest at St. Andrews Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach.

“We have received a copy of the lawsuit and are currently reviewing it,” said Maria Aselage, the director of media relations with the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, in a statement sent by email. “We will respond to the pleading in due time.”

St. Andrews church did not respond to requests to comment on Sunday and Monday.

This is the second lawsuit against the Diocese alleging Kelly’s abuse of young boys, with the first being filed in 2021. Kelly worked as a priest at St. Andrews from 1990 to 1994 and in that time the court complaint says he likely molested many boys. Kelly died in 2004.

The court complaint states Doe was an altar boy at St. Andrews in Myrtle Beach when Kelly served as priest. Doe would often be alone with Kelly on Sunday mornings, which allowed for grooming and sexual abuse to occur, the complaint states.

The complaint states that the plaintiff, “had no idea that kissing, touching and fondling by a Priest was not common behavior.” It also said Kelly engaged in “explicit sexual misconduct” with the young altar boy.

Doe had repressed these memories until 2021. That is when a different victim of Kelly’s sued the Catholic Diocese of Charleston. Doe began to remember his time with Kelly and realized he, too, had been abused. He sought therapy where his memories came back, according to the complaint.

Doe is suing the church for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy and negligent retention or supervision.

The lawsuit states that Doe and his family had trusted St. Andrews, and Kelly, to protect him as a child. It also said the Charleston diocese should have known, or did know, about Kelly’s sexual relationships. By hiring and allowing Kelly to be alone with boys, the lawsuit alleges the Diocese of Charleston was responsible for Kelly’s behavior.

Kelly’s actions caused Doe emotional distress, “so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.”

Doe has requested damages that are to be determined by the jury or court. On Jan. 11, the Catholic Diocese of Charleston requested the case be brought from the Horry County 15th Judicial Circuit Court to U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.

Emalyn Muzzy is a breaking news reporter for The Sun. She covers everything breaking and everything new in the Myrtle Beach area. She graduated from the University of Minnesota is 2022 with a degree in journalism and Spanish.