• Group urges Charlotte Diocese to apologize for abuse

    By: Stephanie Coueignoux


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Members of a support group for people abused by priests want the Charlotte Diocese to admit two priests molested children.

    Monday, the diocese applauded Pope Francis' personal apology to four European victims.

    Pam Wennersten Laico became incredibly emotional as she spoke about how she said a local priest sexually abused her brother.

    "I can't believe this one priest destroyed our family, destroyed our entire family,” she said.

    She and others are now calling on Bishop Peter Jugis to help the four Charlotte area men they say were sexually abused more than 30 years ago.

    “What has Bishop Jugis done for those four men to help them rebuild their lives and put one foot in front of the other?" Laico said.

    David Hains, a spokesman for the Charlotte Diocese, said they have made court settlements and paid for counseling unrelated to the cases this support group is speaking out about.

    He said the diocese is also taking steps to prevent further abuse.

    “We have done 37,000 training sessions and 46,000 background checks in the last nine years. We do take it seriously,” Hains said.

    A judge recently threw out a civil lawsuit against the Charlotte Diocese.

    The accusers claimed they were abused by two local priests more than 30 years ago.

    The lawsuit was thrown out because the statute of limitations ran out.

    A criminal case against one of the priests was also dismissed because he was found to be incompetent to stand trial.

    Both priests were removed from ministry, but Laico said that isn't enough.

    “I would like the Bishop Jugis to personally apologize to these victims and be held accountable,” she said.

    Hains said the bishop has apologized. Channel 9 obtained a letter from Jugis dated February 2004.

    It reads, in part, "I express my profound sorrow. [Sex abuse] is a crime."

    READ the full letter here.

    Channel 9 asked to speak with Jugis on Tuesday, but as told he was unavailable for comment.

    Members of the support group say they will continue to fight, until they feel the victims receive what they deserve, and the diocese is held accountable.

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