Diocese: South Carolina's top Catholic named in NY sexual abuse lawsuit

By Mike Ellis
Greenville News
August 15, 2019

[with video]

South Carolina's top Catholic, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, was accused in a lawsuit today of sexually abusing a minor while a priest in New York 40 years ago.

Guglielmone denied the accusations in separate statements from the Diocese of Charleston and from a law firm representing him.

The lawsuit, filed in Nassau County, alleges Guglielmone "was known among the community and the children at the church as a sexual predator" and the South Carolina diocese should have known about his reputation.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a man who alleges that Guglielmone forced him, as an 8-year-old, to perform sexual acts 20 to 30 times in the rectory of St. Martin of Tours Church in Amityville, New York.

The lawsuit says the alleged abuse led the man to "became scared, anxious and (he) remains unable to leave his home." It led the man to cutting class and urinating on himself as a fourth grader and later to drugs and incarceration, according to the lawsuit. 

The Greenville News typically does not name victims or alleged victims of sexual abuse. The man's attorney, Jordan K. Merson, declined through his staff to comment on the case today. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Guglielmone's lawyers Bruce Barket and Aida Leisenring said in a statement that the accusations are false.

"As the plaintiff admitted to a family member, he made this up in order to get money from the Church (“it’s worth a try,” the plaintiff said)," the statement read. "Bishop Guglielmone is a good man who has devoted his entire career to the church, education, and community service. Although he was under no obligation to do so, he submitted himself to a polygraph examination, which he passed."

The bishop said in a statement: "The allegations are false. I engaged in no wrongdoing. I look forward to being vindicated in Court."

In a statement from the diocese, Guglielmone also denied the allegations.

"I offer my prayers daily for those whose lives have been hurt or devastated by the actions of a member of the clergy or by any other persons, especially all abused children and other vulnerable persons," he said in the diocese statement. "It is particularly tragic when the abuse is at the hands of a priest in whom their spiritual care and well-being has been entrusted."

Monsignors Richard D. Harris and D. Anthony Droze, vicars general of the Diocese of Charleston said in a statement: "Bishop Guglielmone has been a trusted leader of our diocese for more than 10 years. We have the utmost faith in his truthfulness and in his innocence."

Hundreds of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse were filed today in New York, as the state today opened up a one-year window of exemption from the previous statute of limitations for such lawsuits, including cases involving Catholic priests and Boy Scout leaders.

The diocese's statement says the Vatican has been informed with the bishop cooperating with a Vatican investigation.

The allegations against Guglielmone were not included in a major report on allegations released by the state diocese earlier this year.

The list of allegations covered what the diocese determined to be "credible allegations" and the Guglielmone allegation was not found to be credible by the diocese.

The list that included 42 priests who were named was split into four categories of varying degrees of connection to South Carolina. None of those 42 still worked for the diocese and most had died before the report was released, after delays, in March.


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