Lawsuit claims diocese hid abuse by former priest

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A former altar boy filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte for concealing alleged abuse by one of its former priests, Richard Farwell.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this week in Mecklenburg County, said the diocese had a responsibility to report the alleged abuse, but instead conspired with others to cover up the abuse of the plaintiff, who is listed in court records as John Doe.
Farwell served as priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in 1983 and 1984. He pleaded no contest in 2004 to a reduced charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor. He was originally charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor.
The plaintiff in this suit was a minor during the time of the alleged sexual misconduct. The victim, now in his 40s, alleges he was sexually abused when he was 14 by Farwell while at St. Ann’s Catholic Church. The abuse continued after Farwell was transferred to Sacred Heart. The suit said during the Thanksgiving holiday in 1984, Farwell performed oral sex on the victim.
In 1984, the victim was admitted to the hospital and Farwell began visiting him there. The priest eventually was allowed to take the victim off- site and the victim said he was molested in Farwell’s car near the Blue Ridge Parkway, court records said.
The victim’s father trusted Farwell and encouraged him to meet with the priest to receive counseling for behavioral issues. He told the priest he’d been sexually abused when he hitchhiked to Chicago in 1983.
The suit also details another victim, listed as John Doe 2, who alleges he was abused by Farwell at Sacred Heart.
The suit said Farwell was unfit to serve as a priest due to reasons including his attraction to children (particularly teenage boys); his sexual abuse of children (particularly teenage boys); his addictions to sex and alcohol; his inability to obey his vow of celibacy; his inability to observe boundaries; and his participation in support groups such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. Farwell also posed a danger to children because of his being rushed to the House of Affirmation for treatment for sexual misconduct and/or sexual abuse in March 1985. He was again rushed to a monastery in 1998 due to sexual misconduct and/or sexual abuse.
The House of Affirmation is a facility established solely to treat Catholic priests who had issues including sexual abuse issues, sexual addictions and severe psychological problems, the suit said.
The diocese paid for Farwell’s treatment and living expenses during his leaves of absence.
Farwell was granted extensive leaves and transferred to parishes or schools within and outside of the Charlotte Diocese.
Every bishop, vicar and administrator “engaged in a pattern and practice of protecting priests and other employees who they knew or suspected to have engaged in sexual misconduct with children,” the suit said.
The lawsuit also said documents were created that falsely represent the nature to which the priest was sent to rehab to make it appear to be “something other than for sexual abuse/misconduct.”
Letters in the lawsuit addressed to Farwell mention him leaving for Florida to visit his elderly mother.
The diocese failed to take action to protect the victim as well as other children from Farwell, court documents said.
Attorney Seth Langson, who along with attorney Leto Copeley, is representing John Doe, did not comment.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.