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Charlotte Diocese Names Clergy 'Credibly Accused' Of Child Sexual Abuse

Nick de la Canal

The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte has named 14 former clergy members it considers "credibly accused" of sexually abusing children.

The 14 clergy members all served in the diocese since 1972, when the diocese — which covers the western half of the state – formed. The diocese also named six clergy members who served in western North Carolina before the formation of the Charlotte Diocese.

The clergy members named on the list were removed from ministry years ago or died before allegations against them were made. The diocese says that it found no credible accusations against any current clergy members. The diocese also named 23 clergy members who served in the Charlotte Diocese without reported incident but were included on other dioceses' lists.

The following former Charlotte Diocese clergy members were named, along with the locations where alleged abuse associated with them took place:

  • Donald Philip Baker — St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Lenoir.
  • Charles Jeffries Burton — Youth Ministry Center in Flat Rock.
  • Eugene D. Corbesero — Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church in Charlotte, also New Jersey.
  • Aloysius Joseph D'Silva — St. Bernadette Catholic Mission in Linville.
  • Richard B. Farwell — Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salisbury and St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte.
  • P. Patrick Gavigan — Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Greensboro.
  • Adelbert "Del" Holmes — St. William Catholic Church in Murphy; also Franklin, Kentucky, and Diocese of Richmond.
  • Donald J. Joyce — Sacred Heart Catholic Mission and Wadesboro; also Lowell, Massachusetts.
  • Michael Joseph Kelleher — Our Lady of the Annunciation in Albemarle, Our Lady of the Assumption in Charlotte, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hendersonville, Charlotte Catholic High School.
  • Peter Tan Van Le — St. Joseph Vietnamese Catholic Church in Charlotte. 
  • Damion Jacques Lynch — St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Boone. 
  • Justin Paul Pechulis — St. Lawrence Catholic Church (now Basilica) in Asheville. 
  • Donald Francis Scales — St. Michael Catholic Church in Gastonia. 
  • Robert Yurgel — St. Matthew Catholic Church and Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church in Charlotte and St. Michael Catholic Church in Gastonia. 

Burton, Corbesero, D'Silva, Gavigan, Holmes, Joyce, Kelleher, Pechulis and Scales are dead. 
The six pre-Charlotte Diocese clergy members — all of whom are dead — named are Andre Anthony Corbin Jr., Hugh J. Dolan, John Gallagher, John Joseph Hyland, William J. Kuder and Edward William Smith. Corbin and Yurgel were both convicted of crimes.  

“It is painful to even try to comprehend such gravely immoral behavior,” Charlotte Bishop Peter Jugis said Monday in a prepared statement accompanying the release of the list. “However, in speaking with survivors and hearing their stories, it is clear to me that making known the names of their abusers can promote healing for them and their families.”

The diocese says most abuse occurred in the 1960s-1990s and that most allegations were raised years later. 

There are 178 Catholic dioceses in the United States. The Charlotte Diocese was, until today, one of about 30 that hadn't released a list of credibly accused clergy. It joins at least 146 dioceses and 20 religious order provinces in disclosing names, according to BishopAccountability.org, a nonprofit that compiles public documents about the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.

The first diocese to release such a list was the Diocese of Tucson in Arizona, in 2002. The lists vary in how much detail they provide.

In Charlotte's case, Huntersville investigative firm U.S. ISS Agency examined thousands of documents from the diocese. Findings were reviewed by a lay board composed of members appointed by Jugis, and then Jugis has authority to decide which accusations were credible.

The diocese says credible accusations include instances in which a clergy member has admitted abuse, there's corroborating information, more than one person is making the allegation, the accused has been named on another diocese's list or information came from criminal or civil proceedings. 

Terrence McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org released a statement Monday calling the list "better late than never." He said there are "at least nine" additional priests who could have been included on the list but said the diocese named five clergy members whose accusations were not previously known to the public.

WFAE reporter Claire Donnelly talks with reporter Sarah Delia about the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte's just-released list of "credibly accused" clergy.

McKiernan also called on the diocese to update its list with specific years in which clergy were assigned to locations. The list currently includes the locations within the diocese to which accused clergy members were assigned but not the exact dates. 

"Charlotte must immediately update its list to add the missing priests and to add years to the assignment records," McKiernan said. 

Clergy members who've been credibly accused are removed from the ministry, according to the diocese. The list could grow or otherwise change based on new information, the Charlotte Diocese said.

The Charlotte Diocese has created a hotline for reporting abuse.

But Charlotte attorney Seth Langson, who was represented survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy members in court, advises survivors not to use the hotline. 

"That would be the last thing that I think a victim should do," Langson said. "If a victim wants to contact the police or contact an attorney, but don't keep it in-house with the diocese. Documents could disappear. Not saying they do, but it won't help any independent investigation if you go to them." 

The Diocese of Charlotte was established in 1972 and it includes 46 counties in the western half of North Carolina. That means 92 parishes and missions, 19 schools and the St. Joseph College Seminary in Charlotte. Before 1972, all of North Carolina's Catholic parishes fell under the purview Diocese of Raleigh. Today, the Raleigh Diocese encompasses 56 counties in the eastern part of the state.

Both dioceses – along with the dioceses of Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, and the Archdiocese of Atlanta – fall under the Catholic Ecclesiastical Province of Atlanta.

Charlotte was the holdout. The dioceses of Raleigh, Charleston and Savannah and the Atlanta Archdiocese already released lists.

This month, WFAE released an investigative podcast series, "The List," focusing on the process of Catholic dioceses releasing names of credibly accused clergy. The series, hosted and reported by Sarah Delia, also examines the impact of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church – including in the Charlotte Diocese.

Dash joined WFAE as a digital editor for news and engagement in 2019. Before that, he was a reporter for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia, where he covered public safety and the military, among other topics. He also covered county government in Gaston County, North Carolina, for its local newspaper, the Gazette.
Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.
Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.