This week, two men filed lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. They claimed they were abused when they were minors by priests who worked within the Charlotte Diocese. Both priests were named on a list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse released late last year.
The Diocese of Charlotte issued a statement saying in part, "We disagree that the diocese is liable to the plaintiffs."
Charlotte attorney Sam McGee hopes his two clients will have their day in court, something he says they never got. Both men previously filed lawsuits regarding the alleged abuse they say occurred when they were minors in the 1970s and '80s. Both cases were dismissed based on the statute of limitations.
"These are two cases for two victims whose allegations have already been listed as credible allegations on the list that the diocese put out at the end of last year, so these are worthwhile claims, "McGee said.
Richard Farwell, who currently resides in Florida, and Michael Joseph Kelleher, who is deceased, were named in the respective lawsuits as the alleged abusers. They were also named as having credible accusations against them on a list released by the Charlotte Diocese late last year.
McGee says why his clients filed lawsuits once again has to do a with a recent change in North Carolina law. The statute of limitations to file a lawsuit if someone was sexually abused as a minor, moved from 21 years old to 28 years old.
McGee says both plaintiffs are middle-aged, but there is currently a two-year window for anyone who was sexually abused as a minor to come forward with a civil suit.
"The sponsors of that bill really wanted to extend the statute of limitations more in recognition of the fact that most victims do not come forward until they are much more older than 28 years old, but they were unable to accomplish that," McGee said. "So they created this window which they described as a 'one shot deal' to allow claims to be brought."
McGee says his clients filed the lawsuits after he received a clear message from the diocese that it wasn’t willing to settle outside of court.
"Sometimes I compare it to if an organization learned its employees had been burning peoples' houses down for decades and then they come along and say, 'We’re going to put it on a website that says, "Oh, here are our employees that burned people's houses down and we’re sorry about that and we'll try and prevent that in the future,"'" McGee said. "That’s not meaningful accountability until you go back and rebuild the house of all these people who lost them."
Full statement from the Charlotte Diocese:
The Diocese of Charlotte is aware of two lawsuits, pertaining to allegations that date back to the 1970s and 1980s, filed Monday by individuals whose claims against the diocese were previously dismissed by the North Carolina courts. We disagree that the diocese is liable to the plaintiffs and will respond to the litigation in court at the appropriate time. The diocese takes allegations of child sexual abuse very seriously and remains committed to providing a safe environment for all people, especially the young and vulnerable.
In December, 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.