New lawsuit against Charlotte Diocese alleges it was aware of sexual abuse by priest

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Charlotte alleges it was aware of sexual abuse by a priest but did nothing to stop it.

According to the lawsuit, an accuser claims a priest named Donald Baker took advantage of him, starting when he was 7 years old. The alleged abuse occurred from 1985-1989.

The man said his mother wasn’t around and he had no father figure in his life, so he spent a lot of time at church serving as an altar boy.

Court documents claim Baker started the grooming process by taking him on trips, taking him to dinner at other parishioners’ houses, picking him up from school and taking him to movies and out for ice cream.

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He claims the relationship turned sexual and that Baker referred to those acts as “blessing” parts of his body. The suit also claims Baker had a video camera, filming several of the encounters.

He claims the diocese was aware of the years of abuse but did nothing to stop it. He said the diocese failed to do their job to protect children, according to the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Charlotte said Baker is on the list published in 2019 of clergy credibly accused. Baker left the Charlotte Diocese in 1991 and left ministry three years later.

They continue to encourage anyone who has been the victim of abuse to seek help and report to authorities.

The case is only able to go to court because of the Safe Child Act. That’s a two year window of time opened for lawsuits that were past statutes of limitations. Two previous lawsuits were dismissed, saying the Safe Child Act didn’t hold up in those instances.

Latos spoke with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein on Thursday about those claims.

“When a child is victimized, they’re not in the mental place when they turn 18 to bring a lawsuit and we we want an understanding of the science of that kind of trauma. An adult should have an ability to go back and do that,” Stein said.

Stein is defending the Safe Child Act to the court of appeals. Channel 9 will be following whether these cases ever get to a jury.

Statement from the Diocese of Charlotte:

“We are still reviewing the lawsuit but can say the claimant reported to the Diocese of Charlotte in 2017 his allegation of abuse from the late 1980s. As a result, the diocese promptly reported the claim to civil authorities and referred the case to the diocese’s Lay Review Board, which deemed the allegation credible after an investigation. Donald Baker’s name is included on the diocese’s list of credibly accused clergy published in 2019 online at accountability.charlottediocese.org. Baker left the Charlotte diocese in 1991, left ministry in 1994, and remains permanently out of ministry.”

“The diocese has zero tolerance for child sexual abuse and maintains strict accountability standards and reporting protocols in all of our parishes, schools and ministries. We continue to encourage anyone who has been the victim of abuse to seek help and report to authorities. We also pray for peace and healing for abuse victims and their families and communities.”

(WATCH BELOW: 2 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse filed against Diocese of Charlotte)