CHARLOTTE — The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte on Dec. 30 released a list of 14 clergy who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse since the diocese was established in 1972, as well as lists of those who worked in Western North Carolina who have been named by other dioceses and orders. They include several who formerly pastored in the High Country.
The list is the result of a year-long process by the diocese that included “an independent review of more than 1,600 files dating back almost 50 years to ensure a full accounting of credibly accused clergy in the diocese’s history,” it said.
“It is painful to even try to comprehend such gravely immoral behavior,” Charlotte Bishop Peter J. Jugis wrote in a published letter.
“However, in speaking with survivors and hearing their stories, it is clear to me that making known the names of their abusers can promote healing for them and their families.”
“This list is the culmination of a process begun more than a year ago in our belief that a full accounting of credibly accused clergy would provide validation for victims and demonstrate our commitment to transparency and accountability,” he wrote.
Included on the Charlotte Diocese’s list are Damion Jacques Lynch, who served at St. Elizabeth of the Hill Country in Boone from 1991 to 1995, as well as serving as campus minister at Appalachian State. A diocese spokesperson previously confirmed to The AJT’s sister publication The Watauga Democrat that the diocese considered reports of abuse by Lynch to be credible.
Also named is Aloysius Joseph D’Silva, who had assignments at St. Bernadette Catholic Mission in Linville and St. Lucien Catholic Church in Spruce Pine.
Among those who served in Western North Carolina before the Diocese of Charlotte was established, when the Diocese of Raleigh oversaw the Catholic Church across North Carolina, are William J. Kuder, whose assignments included St. Bernadette Catholic Mission in Linville and St. Lucien Catholic Church in Spruce Pine and Edward William Smith, who had one allegation involving abuse in 1963 in Boone, when Smith was pastor of St. Elizabeth.
The Charlotte Diocese then includes a list of clergy and religious brothers who served in Western North Carolina with no allegation documented in the Charlotte diocese but who were named on lists or publicized by other dioceses and religious orders.
It includes H. Cornell Bradley, whose assignments included Church of the Epiphany Catholic Mission in Blowing Rock and St. Elizabeth in Boone, and Anthony Thomas Jablonowski, who served at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Jefferson and St. Frances of Rome Catholic Mission in Sparta.
The diocese compiled the information on a new webpage, www.accountability.charlottediocese.org, which also features resources including a new hotline for reporting sexual abuse operated independently by Red Flag Reporting. The hotline allows people to speak up, anonymously or not, when suspected sexual abuse or other unethical activity is noted.
Damion J. Lynch
Two of the priests said to be credibly accused served consecutive assignments as pastor at St. Elizabeth in Boone: H. Cornell Bradley (1989 to 1993) and Damion J. Lynch (1993 to 1995). Lynch was placed as associate priest at St. Elizabeth in June 1991, and after the departure of Bradley, was installed as pastor of the church.
In the mid-1990s, parents of a 14-year-old boy alleged that Lynch molested him from 1991 to 1995, the diocese stated.
“Lynch admitted the abuse and was sent for psychiatric treatment,” according to the diocese stated. He was placed on administrative leave by then-Charlotte Bishop William G. Curlin, a diocese spokesperson previously confirmed.
Court records show that in 1996, the diocese paid $87,000 to the family to settle a complaint of sexual abuse of the boy, which included an agreement not to publicly discuss the matter. In 1997, after a counselor cleared Lynch for return to ministry, Curlin appointed Lynch to Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church in Charlotte, the diocese stated.
But when the family learned of alleged abuse of the other twin brother, they filed a civil complaint in Watauga County Superior Court against Lynch, Curlin and the Charlotte Diocese in February 1998. The lawsuit ended in March 1999 with a settlement of an undisclosed amount paid by the diocese.
Lynch was removed from ministry in January 1998, and Lynch was released from the clerical state in 2009, the diocese said. The nonprofit organization BishopAccountabilty.org indicates that Lynch was last known to be living in the Washington, D.C., area.
Aloysius Joseph D’Silva
In December 1998, a teenager reported D’Silva had inappropriately touched and kissed her at St. Bernadette Catholic Mission in Linville, the diocese stated.
“D’Silva denied the allegation and the Diocese of Charlotte could not substantiate the claim at the time,” the diocese said, and D’Silva died in 2005. But as part of the diocese’s 2019 historical file review, the allegation was re-examined and found credible through an independent investigation, it said.
William J. Kuder
Kuder was pastor of the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church and its school from 1949 until his death in 1960. The west Asheville-area parish was under the supervision of the Diocese of Raleigh at the time but became part of the Charlotte diocese when it was established in 1972.
Discussions with some of Kuder’s victims originated in 1992, when the first victim came forward. Raleigh Bishop Joseph Gossman and Charlotte Bishop William Curlin, both now deceased, found the allegations credible and publicly apologized for Kuder’s crimes in a joint statement in 1995, the diocese said. Afterward, numerous additional victims came forward to report having been abused by Kuder, it said.
The Raleigh diocese reported the allegations to law enforcement although no criminal charges could be filed, the Charlotte Diocese stated. In 2018 the Raleigh diocese publicly named Kuder on its list of clergy credibly accused of child abuse.
According to the nonprofit organization BishopAccountabilty.org, immediately prior to his time at St. Joan, Kuder was assigned to St. Lucien in Spruce Pine from 1942 to 1949. St. Bernadette in Linville is a mission parish of St. Lucien.
Edward William Smith
In October 2019, the Ohio-based Glenmary Home Missioners publicly named Smith on its list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. The Diocese of Charlotte sought more information since Smith’s ministry with the Glenmary society included one assignment in Western North Carolina in the 1960s, when the Raleigh Diocese oversaw the Catholic Church across the state.
“The society told the Charlotte diocese it had received two credible allegations of sexual abuse many years after Smith’s death in 1975,” the Charlotte Diocese stated. “One allegation was received in 1993 of abuse in the 1960s at Buck Creek, a short-lived training facility and summer youth camp run by the society. The other was received in 2001 involving abuse in 1963 in Boone, when Smith was pastor of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church.”
“In December 2014, the Charlotte diocese received a separate allegation against the deceased priest from a man who reported he had been sexually abused in the 1960s on Boy Scout camping trips in the Boone area,” the diocese stated. “The diocese’s Lay Review Board alerted Watauga County DSS as well as the Glenmary society, which found the allegation credible.”
H. Cornell Bradley
In December 2018, Bradley’s supervising religious order, the Jesuits’ Maryland Province, named Bradley on its list of accused clergy for credible allegations of sexual abuse in the late 1960s to early 1980s in Maryland and Washington, D.C.
“There are no credible abuse allegations documented during his time in the Diocese of Charlotte,” the Charlotte Diocese stated.
Bradley was assigned to St. Elizabeth in Boone — another parish of the Charlotte Diocese — from July 1989 to September 1993, according to church records. Under Bradley’s pastorate, two education wings were completed at St. Elizabeth in 1993 to accommodate continued parish growth, according to a parish history formerly published on the Charlotte Diocese website.
Province spokesperson Mike Gabriele confirmed in early 2019 that Bradley was temporarily removed from ministry and sent to treatment in 1993 — the year he left St. Elizabeth — following reports of abuse that allegedly occurred at a different location years before.
Bradley was returned to ministry in 1994 and was assigned to Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia as a campus minister and basketball team chaplain until 2006, when the province permanently removed Bradley from ministry amid an investigation of additional allegations, according to media reports. He left the Jesuits in 2007.
Anthony Thomas Jablonowski
In 2004, Jablonowski pleaded no contest to charges of abusing a 17-year-old boy at a Wyoming parish in the 1980s, according to public records. He served prison time and was dismissed from the clerical state in 2006.
“In the 1970s, Jablonowski served on loan to the Ohio-based Glenmary Home Missioners, who assigned him to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Jefferson, North Carolina,” the Charlotte Diocese stated. “There are no documented abuse allegations from his time in Jefferson.”
The review process and history
Beginning in January 2002, the Boston Globe revealed the vast extent of abuse by Catholic priests. In June 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
The charter mandates a zero-tolerance policy, strict screening and training standards, and protocols for reporting and preventing abuse in all U.S. Catholic churches, facilities and programs.
In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed that hundreds of priests were accused of abusing more than 1,000 children and that church leaders took steps to cover up the crimes, renewing the international focus on the scandal. The revelations mounted increasing pressure on dioceses and orders to release the names of accused priests.
In a statement released Dec. 30, the Charlotte Diocese said that it set in motion a multi-layered process to publish the names of clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse in fall 2018.
“The diocese automatically placed on its list clergy who had admitted to allegations or were charged by law enforcement with child sexual abuse offenses,” it said. “In addition, the diocese placed on its list all clergy who were determined by its Lay Review Board to have been credibly accused.
“To ensure historical allegations were identified in the diocese’s files, independent investigators from U.S. Investigative Security Services of Charlotte reviewed 1,600 personnel files of priests, deacons and religious brothers, as well as other archives, for any indication of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Their review took more than 1,000 hours and encompassed 150,000 pages of documents. As a result, four credible cases of alleged abuse handled before the Charter protocols took effect in 2002 were surfaced from the files and included on the list.”
“A credible allegation is one that has the semblance of truth; one supported by information worthy of belief. It is not a finding of guilt,” the diocese explained.
“Very little attention had been paid to our personnel files going back almost 50 years, but we knew it was important to explore their contents and make relevant information known,” said the Rev. Patrick J. Winslow, a canon lawyer and former promoter of justice who oversaw the file review as the diocese’s newly appointed vicar general and chancellor, in a statement. “Today, we sincerely hope our efforts will provide some validation for abuse survivors and promote a culture that allows people who may be suffering in silence to come forward and seek help.”