Charleston, S.C., Aug 15, 2019 / 07:38 am (CNA).- Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, SC, has been named in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed in New York. The accusations contained in the suit concern the bishop’s time as a pastor in the Diocese of Rockville Centre forty years ago.
The suit was filed after new legislation in New York came into force Wednesday, adjusting the statute of limitations for pursuing criminal charges and filing civil suits against sexual abusers or institutions.
According to a report carried by the Charleston Post and Courier, the suit alleges that Guglielmone sexually abused a young man over a period of years while he was serving as pastor of St. Martin of Tours parish in Amityville.
In a statement released by the diocese to local media, Guglielmone denied all the accusations and said that he was looking forward to establishing his innocence.
“I offer my prayers daily for those whose lives have been hurt or devastated by the actions of a member of the clergy or by any other persons, especially all abused children and other vulnerable persons,” Guglielmone said.
“It is particularly tragic when the abuse is at the hands of a priest in whom their spiritual care and well-being has been entrusted.”
According to the Charleston diocese, when first made, the accusation was initially determined not to be credible though civil law enforcement was notified of the claims. Following the re-presentation of the allegation, the Vatican was informed and had initiated a full investigation, with which Guglielmone is said to be “cooperating fully.”
It is not clear when the allegations were first made, and the diocese has not confirmed who is conducting the investigation.
The lawsuit alleges that Guglielmone sexually abused a boy for several years, beginning in 1978, when the boy was eight years old. The suit, filed by the now adult man, is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for “catastrophic and lifelong injuries.”
Guglielmone has served as Bishop of Charleston since his installation in March, 2009. Prior to that, he was assigned as rector of the cathedral in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Following recent clerical sexual abuse scandals throughout the Church in the United States, Guglielmone released a list of 42 clerics “credibly accused” of sexual abuse over a period of decades. The diocese also said the bishop had held several “town hall” style meetings to meet with members of the faithful to hear their concerns and work towards healing.
Both the vicars general of the Diocese of Charleston released a statement of support for the bishop, calling him “a trusted leader of our diocese for more than ten years.”
Msgr. Richard Harris and Msgr. Anthony Droze both said that they had “utmost faith in [Guglielmone’s] truthfulness and in his innocence.”
The suit was filed after the passage of the Child Victims Act by the New York state government in January of this year.
The legislation opened a one-year window allowing adults in the state who were sexually abused as children to file lawsuits against their abusers. The window opened six months after the passage of the law, coming into force on Wednesday, August 14.
Those who were sexually abused now have a one-year break in the state’s statute of limitations to pursue claims against their abusers and the institutions where the abuse took place.
Previously, a survivor of child sexual abuse had until the age of 23 to file charges or a civil claim. Now, with the passage of the law, survivors have up until the age of 28 to file criminal charges, and age 55 to file a lawsuit.
The Catholic dioceses of the state, Boy Scouts of America, and the state’s public schools have all said they are preparing for a potentially large number of abuse survivors to file lawsuits.
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