Priest Facing Sex Charges on Way to Mecklenburg Jail

By Maria Kotula
April 11, 2008

[with video]

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina authorities are driving former Charlotte priest Robert Yurgel back to Charlotte this weekend.

They left New Jersey Friday morning and expect to have the priest behind bars at the Mecklenburg County jail by Saturday or Sunday.

"It's something awful to hear," says Catholic Jackie Groff.

And for many Charlotte Catholics like her it's even harder to bear.

"I just don't think it's something that can come off against the Catholic Church in general or Catholic priests in general," she adds.

Yurgel is charged with molesting a 14-year-old boy in 1999 while serving at the largest Catholic Church in the diocese -- St. Matthew's.

"We had no complaints of Father Yurgel during his time of service here," says diocese spokesman David Hains. "He was priest in good standing when he came to the diocese."

The church has made big changes since then.

"The diocese began conducting background checks in 2003, and right now, basically, if you work for the diocese you get a background check," said Hains.

But in this case, Hains says the background check would not have made a difference explaining, "There was nothing in his past."

Yurgel also worked at Our Lady of Consolation in uptown Charlotte.

Hains explains what makes this case so personal to Charlotte Catholics saying, "This is the first incident with a priest serving in Charlotte and an allegation of an incident that was to have taken place in Charlotte."

WCNC asked if any religious leaders from the Charlotte Catholic Diocese would be counseling Yurgel in jail and they said possibly a representative from his Franciscan order.


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