CHARLOTTE — A man who claims his minister took advantage of his family’s faith and his vulnerability by grooming -- then abusing him -- for years, has filed a civil lawsuit in Charlotte.
But Channel 9 anchor Allison Latos learned the law allowing him to sue is now at the center of its own court battle.
Allison has covered cases of abuse involving former clergy members in the Charlotte Diocese for years, and this lawsuit, filed Tuesday, follows the same pattern of many of those cases.
It accuses the church of moving accused ministers to different churches or parishes instead of reporting them to police.
The latest lawsuit says Al Behm was credibly accused of sexual abuse in Kentucky, and then moved to a new position as campus clergy at Western Carolina University, where he was in charge of ministering to the spiritual needs of all Catholic students.
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During that time, the case traces Behm’s relationship with a boy, befriending and then grooming him at a young age before sexually abusing him and encouraging him to join Behm at Western Carolina.
The suit claims that Behm would even take the boy along on trips where Behm would attend conventions with other priests accused of sexual abuse.
In this case, the alleged abuse ended in the 1980s, but the accuser is just now filing his lawsuit because of a North Carolina law called the “Safe Child Act,” which temporarily opened a window for accusers to sue who otherwise wouldn’t be able to because of the statute of limitations.
But this new lawsuit may face challenges in court because Channel 9 has covered two other cases against the Catholic Church that judges have dismissed.
Attorney General Josh Stein is defending the Safe Child Act to the Court of Appeals.
Glenmary, where Behm worked at the time, said it has not received the lawsuit yet, but that Behm left his work there in 1993.
Channel 9 will be following whether these cases ever get to a jury.
Full statement from the Diocese of Charlotte:
The Diocese of Charlotte’s historical file review found no record of any allegations of child sexual abuse by Al Behm during his time in North Carolina 40 years ago.
Behm was a lay missionary whose supervising religious order, the Ohio-based Glenmary Home Missioners, served sparsely populated areas of far western North Carolina. The order assigned Behm to work at Western Carolina University in 1980. They assigned him to ministry outside of North Carolina in 1984, and Behm left the Glenmary order in 1993.
In October 2019, Behm was publicly named on Glenmary’s list of members accused of abuse, for an allegation the order said was reported to have occurred in Kentucky in the 1970s. Glenmary’s list prompted the Diocese of Charlotte to include Behm’s name on our accountability website, on a list of those who served here and were later accused of abuse elsewhere.
The Charlotte diocese has zero tolerance for child sexual abuse and we continue to encourage anyone who has been the victim of abuse to seek help and report to authorities.
(WATCH BELOW: 2 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse filed against Diocese of Charlotte)
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