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Charlotte diocese paid nearly $500K in abuse cases

Since 1995, the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte has paid nearly a half-million dollars to local victims of alleged sexual abuse. The carefully worded disclosure was buried in its 2001-2002 annual report at the end of a description of its policy on protecting young people from sexual abuse.By our deadline on Monday, diocese spokesperson Kevin Murray was still trying to determine how many victims had received the money and the date of the alleged incidents for which they were paid. The report, which was issued in November, states that no payments were made during the last year on behalf of victims of clergy sexual misconduct with children.

"We have been greatly saddened by the intolerable abuse of children by a few priests," the report reads. "When abusive misconduct is brought to our attention the diocese responds in every way possible to determine the truth and meet the needs of victims. After consultation with families, and when determined appropriate, financial assistance has been provided to victims to aid in the healing process."

According to its policy on sexual abuse of a minor by a church cleric, upon receipt of an allegation of abuse, "the Diocese will remove the alleged abuser from ministry, report the allegation to civil authorities and fully cooperate with their investigation."

Last week, CL requested police report numbers, or other evidence documenting that the diocese had reported the alleged abuse referred to in the report to civil authorities. It was also unclear Monday whether the alleged abusers are still actively working or volunteering for the diocese.

According to the annual report, none of the diocesan funds paid on behalf of victims came from a fundraising drive called the Diocesan Support Appeal or from parish savings, sources of money provided by members of the diocese's parishes.

The disclosure comes on the heels of a recent flap in which Mark Doherty, a religion teacher at Charlotte Catholic since 1997, went on administrative leave after the Boston Globe and the Charlotte Observer reported that the church had investigated sexual abuse allegations against him in the past.

After investigating two sexual abuse allegations against Doherty, the Boston diocese declined to ordain him to the priesthood. Doherty transferred to the Charlotte diocese in the hope of being ordained a priest. He was hired to teach at Charlotte Catholic High School with the endorsement of Bishop William G. Curlin, who was made aware of the allegations by Boston Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

Murray said there is no substantiating evidence for the allegations against Doherty.

In other news, two spokespeople for the diocese questioned CL's reporting last week of facts published in the Charlotte Observer and the Boston Globe. Among them was a statement in the Observer that Monsignor Mauricio West hoped that Doherty could return to the classroom after a review of his past. Spokesperson Karen Evans told CL that West had never spoken to the Observer, that the statement the paper attributed to him was in error, and that after Murray complained to the Observer, the paper neglected to correct it.

In fact, Murray spoke to the Observer for West, but Observer Editor Jennie Buckner said the paper had had no complaints about the article. After talking to Murray on Monday to verify this, Buckner told CL that Murray said he doesn't have any problem with the accuracy of the article.

On Friday, Murray also told CL that the Boston Globe story we cited was inaccurate and that the diocese had pointed out the inaccuracies in the article to the paper, but that the paper was standing by their story. Globe reporter Matt Carroll said he had received a call from the diocese after his story, but that no one had complained to him about any inaccuracies or asked him to retract anything in the story.

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