2 Priests Accused of Sex Abuse Resign

By Bo Emerson and Keith Graham
Atlanta Journal and Constitution
December 30, 1993

Two priests accused of sexual abuse have resigned at the request of the head of South Carolina's Roman Catholic churches, the Diocese of Charleston said Wednesday.

Monsignor Frederick Hopwood, 68, accused of molesting at least eight people during his 42-year career as a priest in the state, resigned from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville. The Rev. John Bench, 55, who is accused of molesting one boy, resigned from Holy Cross Parish in Pickens.

Bishop David Thompson announced Monday that Hopwood and Bench were suspended last week because of separate allegations of abuse. On Wednesday, Thompson accepted the resignations, suspended the two from all priestly duties and ordered them to undergo psychiatric evaluation as soon as possible, diocese spokeswoman Mary Jeffcoat said.

No legal charges have been filed against Hopwood, but the solicitor's office has received telephone calls from two people who are "interested" in pressing charges, Solicitor David Schwacke said. Pickens Police Chief Wendal Jenkins said his office will not file charges against Bench.

The diocese is conducting an internal investigation and has offered to pay for outside counseling for the alleged victims.


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