CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Court records surrounding sexual abuse lawsuits against the Diocese of Charlotte have been kept confidential for years, but Channel 9 is working to bring those documents to light.
Dioceses nationwide have begun revealing the names of church leaders accused of abuse, but the Diocese of Charlotte has not released a full list of all priests with credible allegations.
Channel 9 has joined with other media outlets in filing a lawsuit to have the records unsealed.
We're committed to accountability and telling the stories of those who have been abused in a place that is supposed to be a source of comfort.
Watch the video below to hear one man's story of abuse and the years of pain he's endured at the hands of a priest.
Eyewitness News anchor Allison Latos has been working for years to unseal the records that church leaders have kept secret.
The records could reveal how the diocese handled allegations against its priests.
Many of the documents haven't been released because they're under seal. That means only a judge and attorneys can see them. Some of the records that the public can see describe disturbing details of abuse by church leaders.
Channel 9 obtained documents from a civil lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Charlotte by two men claiming a priest abused them in separate incidents at two local churches.
Watch the video below to hear the disturbing details of sexual abuse the men said they experienced as teens and how the crisis of information in the church is harmful to victims who haven't spoken out yet.
Channel 9 is a part of a media coalition pushing for transparency in the church. The next step in the lawsuit is a hearing before a judge in the next few weeks. Then, both sides will await a ruling.
The Diocese of Charlotte has promised to publish a full list of priests with credible allegations of abuse against children sometime this year.
The Diocese of Charlotte sent the following statement to Channel 9:
The Diocese of Charlotte is committed to transparency, accountability and compassion for victims of sexual abuse, and has embraced the protections and reporting requirements spelled out in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. We do not tolerate child sexual abuse, and the diocese acts swiftly to report allegations to authorities, cooperate with law enforcement, and discipline clergy found to have credible allegations against them.
Father Joseph Kelleher's case is a prime example: In 2010, when Bishop Peter Jugis first became aware of an abuse allegation against retired Father Kelleher, the diocese immediately suspended him from ministry and notified authorities as well as the public – resulting in widespread media coverage and a criminal charge.
In the same spirit, the diocese supports the media’s request to unseal documents in the civil suits – if that is the desire of the plaintiffs involved. In fact, the only information that the Diocese filed under seal in these cases is information that would reveal the plaintiffs’ identities, a step the diocese took to honor the plaintiffs’ request at the time. Respecting the wishes of plaintiffs in this case and promoting healing for all victims of abuse remain our highest priorities.
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