The bishop of Charleston, South Carolina announced he will reduce his public appearances after being named in a lawsuit filed in New York. Bishop Robert Guglielmone announced that he is stepping back from visible leadership of the diocese as he defends himself against an accusation of sexual abuse.
In a letter to the faithful of the diocese, dated Friday and intended for distribution to parishes ahead of Sunday Masses, Guglielmone insisted that he was wholly innocent of the accusation made against him and would fight to clear his name.
“As you know, a lawsuit has been filed against me alleging that I have committed a grievous act,” said the bishop in the Aug. 16 letter.
“This false accusation against me has no merit whatsoever; I have vigorously defended myself and will continue to do so.”
Guglielmone has repeatedly stated that the accusations are false and is said to be cooperating fully with a Church investigation. As this process continues, he said, his concern is that continuing in a visible role in the diocese would be a “distraction” from other diocesan priorities and he will “temporarily reduce” his public presence for the foreseeable future.
“I do not want to distract the focus from the important ministries of the Church in South Carolina–including creating safe environments for our children,” he said.
In the letter, Guglielmone reiterated that all child abuse is “despicable.”
The suit against Guglielmone was filed on August 14, the first day of a one-year period where abuse survivors may file claims against their abusers or the institutions which shielded their abusers, regardless of the statute of limitations.
This one-year period was created by the passage of the Child Victims Act, which changed New York’s statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.
The suit alleges that Guglielmone sexually abused a young man over a period of years while he was serving as pastor of St. Martin of Tours parish in Amityville, starting in 1978.
The Diocese of Charleston said that, when first made, the accusation was initially determined not to be credible, though civil law enforcement was notified of the claims. Following the re-presentation of the allegation, the Vatican was informed and has initiated a full investigation, with which Guglielmone is said to be “cooperating fully.”
It is not clear when the allegations were first made, and the diocese has not confirmed who is conducting the investigation.
Both the vicars general of the Diocese of Charleston have released a statement of support for the bishop, calling him “a trusted leader of our diocese for more than ten years.”
Msgr. Richard Harris and Msgr. Anthony Droze both said that they had “utmost faith in [Guglielmone’s] truthfulness and in his innocence.”
Guglielmone has been the Bishop of Charleston since 2009.
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