Man Abused by Priest Helps Other Victims

By Sharon Smith
May 11, 2010

[with video]

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - David Fortwengler was 11 years old when he was abused by a priest growing up in Maryland. It was the 1960's and Fortwengler didn't see his abuser convicted until 35 years later.

"I never repressed the memories of what happened to me. I thought of it often," said Fortwengler.

He's made it his mission now to help other victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. He runs a Charlotte-area chapter of SNAP The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Fortwengler is speaking to church in Mint Hill Wednesday night about his abuse experience in the hope of preventing other cases and helping other victims.

He's especially proud of a young man named Robby Price, who recently won a settlement from the Diocese of Charlotte. Price was abused by Father Robert Yurgel who worked at St. Matthew Catholic Church in the 90's. Yurgel was convicted and is currently serving up to ten years in prison.

"So many survivors and society, in general, should be so appreciative of his courage," said Fortwengler.

In Fortwengler's case, the abuser was sentenced to nine months and given probation. Father Robert Petrella was convicted of molesting three boys, but he was convicted under the laws of 1968. His victims did not come forward until decades later.

Fortwengler says the church knew about the abuse, but covered it up.

"Over the course of his ministry, the phone was ringing off the hook at the Diocese," he said. Fortwengler says Petrella was sent to treatment several times, then ordered back to the ministry.

He says one thing he learned was to report abuse straight to the police. "If anything has come out of this sorry mess," he said, "It's that we realize justice and accountability is not found in an institution.

The Diocese where Fortwengler grew up in Maryland settled with him and several other victims out of court.


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