CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Records obtained by WBTV show Catholic Church leaders in Raleigh, Charlotte and Springfield, Mass. Allowed a priest to continue working in a parish for decades after he was first reported to have abused children.
The revelation is the latest in a string of new information that is unfolding about how local Catholic leaders have handled reports of abuse for decades.
Last week, Monsignor Mauricio West—who, as Chancellor of the Charlotte Diocese, was the second-in-command for a quarter century—abruptly resigned after a lay review board found allegations of sexual misconduct against him to be credible.
The nine pages of new records obtained by WBTV show Catholic leaders in North Carolina—first in the Diocese of Raleigh and, later, the Diocese of Charlotte, after it was created—allowed Father Andre Corbin to continue working as a priest decades after first receiving complaints that Corbin had sexually abused boys.
Eventually, Corbin was reported to police in 1988, when he was charged with two counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor in Buncombe County.
He pleaded guilty to one of those counts, was sentenced to five years in jail but served just two months of his sentence before being released on probation, court records show.
According to court records, the criminal charges and conviction stems from an incident in 1966.
But a letter obtained by WBTV from then-Bishop of Raleigh Vincent Waters to Bishop Christopher Weldon, who presided at the time over the Bishop of Springfield, Mass. shows church leaders were aware of Corbin’s behavior as early as 1963.
It was sometime after the summer of 1963 that Waters, in Raleigh, wrote to Weldon, in Springfield.
“Last summer not too long after the new priests were ordained I had a difficulty with the young priest who has written me the enclosed letter,” Waters’ missive about Corbin began.
“I found that he needed psychiatric treatment,” Waters wrote. “The difficulty was boyology.”
According to the letter, Waters sent Corbin to live with his family in western Massachusetts and receive psychiatric treatment.
Waters was writing Weldon to ask that Corbin “have more priestly work, living in a Catholic Rectory.”
“I hesitate to request help with one of my problems but I need to take every step thought necessary to help this priest,” the Bishop of Raleigh wrote.
The records obtained by WBTV do not make clear whether Corbin was given any work at a church in response to Waters’ letter but other records confirm he did eventually work at a school and a church in Massachusetts.
‘You’ve got him pegged’
WBTV has learned Corbin did move back to North Carolina to work as a priest for some period of time in the late 1960’s.
Jerry Moore, a grown man who now lives in Greensboro, said he was assaulted by Corbin in 1968.
Moore said he met Corbin as a high school student attending a pre-seminary high school in Asheville.
“He was the cool priest,” Moore said of Corbin.
The two developed such a close bond, Moore said, that he visited Corbin one time in Winston-Salem after he’d been transferred from Asheville.
“He seemed to move around a lot,” Moore said.
It was during that visit when Moore said Corbin “began putting sexual moves” on him.
Moore said he called Catholic officials in Charlotte and Raleigh in 2002 to report what happened but never received any follow-up.
During a conversation with an official in the Raleigh Diocese, though, Moore said the official responded with “you’ve got him pegged” after Moore described his experiences with Corbin.
New reports of abuse in the late 1980’s
An inter-office memo prepared by an official with the Diocese of Springfield in May 1986 put a finer point on why Corbin was given leave from his assignments in North Carolina two decades earlier.
“The reasons for his leave of absence were – first, for his homosexuality, and second, charges of molestation of eight grade boys,” the memo said. “He was relieved of his assignment and sent for counseling and was cooperative. In the twenty years since this has taken place there are no indications that the problem continues.”
But the Diocese of Charlotte, who still held Corbin’s priestly faculties despite the fact he lived in Massachusetts, called the Diocese of Springfield to tell them that a complaint had been made against Corbin.
“There have been no indicators or reports of any problems in this area,” the memo said. “At present, Mr. Corbin is teaching at STCC. He is still acting as a priest on weekends, however, helping out in Osterville on Cape Cod.”
The memo claimed no responsibility for Corbin, despite the fact that he was still working at a parish on the weekends.
But a list of credibly accused clergy released by the Diocese of Springfield last November includes Corbin. The list does not provide details of what had taken place to land any priest on the list.
Two more memos written by the Diocese of Springfield in late November and early December 1987 say someone called the Springfield Chancery to report abuse against Corbin.
The memos outline reasons why the Springfield officials felt they weren’t responsible for Corbin and say the report was relayed to the Diocese of Charlotte.
There is no record of any action by the Charlotte Diocese until a letter dated April 5, 1988 from the Chancellor of the Charlotte Diocese to his counterpart in Springfield informing him of a claim made against Corbin.
According to the letter, Corbin’s priestly faculties had been suspended.
There is no public document produced by the Diocese of Charlotte that could be used to confirm Corbin had been credibly accused of abuse.
The Diocese of Charlotte has not released a comprehensive list of clergy that have been credibly accused of abuse, similar to the one that lists Corbin from the Diocese of Springfield.
But in a statement issued by a spokesman for the Diocese of Charlotte in response to this story, they acknowledged Corbin was a priest within the Charlotte Diocese.
Diocesan spokesman David Hains issued the following statement:
“Father Andre Corbin’s reprehensible behavior led to his dismissal from ministry by the Diocese of Charlotte in 1988 and a criminal conviction in 1989. It’s important to note that this episode represents a different period in the Catholic Church’s handling of these types of allegations. Adopted in 2002, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People provides for evaluation by a Lay Review Board of all alleged sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and immediate consequences for any allegation deemed credible. We regret the pain and suffering of all victims of abuse, and we are committed to a culture of transparency and accountability to restore faith and trust in our institution and our people.”