Former Capuchin priest Yurgel accused of abuse in new lawsuit
Catholic News Herald
December 29, 2020
Former Capuchin Franciscan priest Robert Yurgel, who was dismissed from his religious order and removed from the priesthood in 2010, has been accused by a second man of child sexual abuse in the late 1990s while Yurgel served as a parochial vicar in the Diocese of Charlotte.
A California man, now 28, alleges in a civil lawsuit that Yurgel abused him at St. Matthew Church in Charlotte when the man was about 5 to 7 years old. Yurgel was assigned by his New Jersey-based religious order to work in the Charlotte diocese from 1997 to 1999.
The lawsuit was filed Dec. 14, 2020, in Mecklenburg County Superior Court against Yurgel, the Diocese of Charlotte, and Yurgel’s former religious order, the Capuchin Franciscans’ Province of the Sacred Stigmata of St. Francis in Union City, N.J.
In a Dec. 22 statement to the Catholic News Herald, the diocese said it was reviewing the complaint and that attorneys for the claimant informed the diocese that the allegation had also been reported to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office.
Public records show no charges have been filed.
Yurgel served more than seven years in prison after a Charlotte man reported to police in 2008 that Yurgel had sexually abused him as a teen in the late 1990s at St. Matthew Church. The diocese has previously said it became aware of that allegation in 2008 when Yurgel was arrested in New Jersey, where he had been assigned by his religious order.
Yurgel’s criminal case was widely publicized in local media, including the Catholic News Herald, and a civil lawsuit filed by the victim against Yurgel, the Capuchin Franciscans and the Charlotte diocese was settled in 2010. Yurgel’s name was included on a historical list of clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse published by the diocese in 2019 (online at accountability.charlottediocese.org).
The new suit does not detail the alleged abuse of the second claimant and primarily recounts the allegations of the previous victim’s claim. The suit states only that Yurgel “abused plaintiff during his tenure…on several occasions at St. Matthew,” and contends the diocese and the Capuchin Franciscans were negligent in supervising Yurgel.
In its statement, the diocese said it “takes all allegations of child sexual abuse seriously no matter when they might have occurred and continues to encourage anyone who has information about possible abuse to report it to police.”
The diocese has had formal policies and procedures in place to protect against abuse and other inappropriate contact with youth by clergy, Church workers and volunteers since the late 1980s, and in 2002 adopted new protocols as part of the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The new protocols mandate zero tolerance, strict accountability standards, and ongoing training for reporting allegations and preventing abuse in all parishes, schools and ministries.
Full statement from the Diocese of Charlotte (Dec. 22, 2020): We just received the complaint and are reviewing the matter. We first learned of this allegation earlier this year, when the plaintiff’s attorneys sent a letter to the diocese. The letter also informed us the allegation had been reported to CMPD and the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office. CMPD later informed us the department planned to investigate.
Robert Yurgel was assigned by his supervising religious order, the New Jersey-based Capuchin Franciscans, to work in the Charlotte diocese from 1997 to 1999. The only previous child abuse allegation against Yurgel we are aware of is detailed on our accountability website at https://accountability.charlottediocese.org.
As noted there, that complaint first emerged in 2008 and involved abuse that occurred a decade earlier. Yurgel was convicted in 2009, sent to prison and dismissed from the priesthood. The diocese takes all allegations of child sexual abuse seriously, no matter when they might have occurred, and continues to encourage anyone who has information about possible abuse to report it to police.