Priest who served in Diocese of Charleston charged with sexual abuse of 11-year-old girl 


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Boston, Mass., Jan 9, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Father Jaime Adolfo Gonzalez-Farias, a visiting priest from Chile who served in the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, has been arrested in Florida and charged with sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl in 2020.

Gonzalez-Farias, from the Diocese of San Bernardo, Chile, was arraigned this afternoon in federal court for the district of South Carolina.

According to the federal indictment from the U.S. district court for the district of South Carolina, Gonzalez-Farias — who went by “Father Gonzalez” — “used a facility and means of interstate and foreign commerce to knowingly attempt to and did persuade, induce, entice, and coerce” an 11-year-old girl “to engage in sexual activity.”

The indictment further charged that Gonzalez-Farias “did knowingly transport” the 11-year-old girl “in interstate commerce, with intent that the individual engage in sexual activity.”

A third charge in the indictment says that Gonzalez-Farias “crossed a state line with intent to engage in a sexual act, to wit: the intentional touching, not through the clothing, of the genitalia of another person who has not attained the age of 16 years with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, and arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person” with the 11-year-old girl.

Gonzalez-Farias was ordained a priest in 1990. Since his ordination, he has held roles as a pastor, parochial vicar, administrator, and chaplain, according to the indictment.

The Diocese of Charleston said in a statement that it “was made aware of an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor involving visiting priest Father Jaime Gonzalez-Farias in December 2020, after he had left the country for his home in Chile.”

“In January 2021, we notified his parishioners about the abuse allegation. Subsequently, retired Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone determined that there were reasonable grounds to believe the allegation,” the statement said.

A local sheriff’s department had initially taken the case, but it was referred to federal authorities, the diocese said.

“We have cooperated fully with both law enforcement agencies,” the diocese said.

The statement said that Gonzalez-Farias began serving in the diocese in 2015. He had cleared a background check at the time, the statement said. Gonzalez-Farias had also completed the diocese’s safe environment training, adding that he was “rescreened” in July 2020, to which “no criminal activity was noted on that report.”

An article on new priest assignments from the diocese’s magazine in July 2020 said that Gonzalez-Farias would be the administrator of St. Mark Church in Newberry, Holy Spirit Mission in Laurens, and St. Boniface Mission in Joanna.

The article also said that he would be chaplain to Tyger River Correctional Institution and to Presbyterian College.

In an August 2021 diocesan report on clergy sex abuse, Gonzalez-Farias was named under the section “Religious Order or Visiting Priests with a Credible Allegation of Child Sexual Misconduct or Abuse within the Diocese of Charleston.”

At the time of the report, Gonzalez-Farias’ “status” was listed as “Unknown — believed to have returned to Chile.”

CNA asked the diocese when Gonzalez-Farias left the diocese but did not receive a response by time of publication.

According to the indictment, Gonzalez-Farias’ first charge of coercion and enticement of a minor is punishable by a prison sentence between 10 years to life and up to a $250,000 fine.

His second charge of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity holds the same penalty. His third charge of attempted aggravated sexual abuse with children also holds the same punishment, with a minimum sentence of 30 years imprisonment.

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