Teacher Fired after Review of Allegations
Diocese Apologizes for 'Breach of Trust'

By Howie Paul Hartnett, Ken Garfield
Charlotte Observer (North Carolina)
March 6, 2003

Apologizing Wednesday for what the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte called a "breach of trust," the diocese dismissed a Charlotte Catholic High School teacher over allegations of child sexual misconduct dating back to 1977.

Mark Doherty had been teaching religion since 1997, despite the Boston Archdiocese warning Charlotte church leaders that there was a "reasonable probability" he engaged in sexual misconduct. He requested and was put on administrative leave Feb. 4 following the release of old personnel records in Boston, where he was a seminarian.

Among the two separate allegations of sexual misconduct against Doherty, who was never charged with a crime: he swam nude with two boys on a 1977 camping trip. "Mark admitted that there could have been nudity," one report released by the Boston Archdiocese stated.

In a written statement sent Wednesday to The Observer, Monsignor Mauricio West said a nine-person diocesan lay review board unanimously recommended Doherty not return to the classroom. West would not release details of the board's confidential report. No allegations have been reported against Doherty in Charlotte, said diocese spokesman Kevin Murray.

His hiring in Charlotte came after then-Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston wrote letters to then-Bishop William Curlin of Charlotte, informing him of the allegations and saying he would not recommend Doherty for ordination as a priest.

Curlin, now retired, has not commented.

West, who oversees the diocese until a new bishop is named, had previously said the allegations against Doherty had never been proved.

In a written statement also released Wednesday by the diocese, Doherty said he was innocent.

"How can unsubstantiated allegations that were never reported to legal officials or tried in court come back to haunt me 26 years later?" Doherty asked. " In this case, I am presumed guilty simply by having been accused."

Doherty said he will continue trying to clear his name and return to teaching. He did not return a phone call Wednesday.

In his statement, West said the diocese will act on review board recommendations to strengthen background checks and screening of applicants. No one accused of sexual misconduct involving a minor will be offered a job "unless and until such allegations are deemed to be wholly non-credible by competent officials of the Diocese of Charlotte"

Student Christie Keuten was surprised Doherty was fired.

"What doesn't surprise me is he's not coming back," said Keuten, in Doherty's homeroom for three years. "I knew he couldn't come back to this environment."

Too many people would judge him regardless of whether the allegations were true, the 17-year-old said. "How he was with us, I'll always remember that," she said.

Church officials should have been more open with parents, Keuten's mom, Carrie, said. Instead of the superintendent sending a letter, school officials should have alerted parents, she said.

"You just don't pick up a newspaper and find out about a teacher," she said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.