CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - The pastor of Charlotte’s St. Matthew Catholic Church, one of the nation’s largest parishes, will remain out of active ministry after decades-old allegations of sexual abuse of a minor surfaced last year, Bishop Peter Jugis said Wednesday.
In a letter to St. Matthew parishioners, Jugis said he accepted the report and recommendation of the diocese’s independent Lay Review Board that Father Patrick Hoare “remain out of active ministry at this time.”
Father John Allen will continue as administrator of St. Matthew Parish, Jugis said.
The diocese placed Hoare on administrative leave on Dec. 9, Jugis said, “after receiving an allegation against him of child sexual abuse that was said to have occurred in Pennsylvania more than 25 years ago, before Father Hoare entered ministry.”
Hoare denied the allegations, the Observer previously reported.
In his letter Wednesday, Jugis said that “considering the totality of these findings and the questions they raise, as well as the culture of prevention we have established in this diocese, Father Hoare will remain on administrative leave.”
Under church law, Jugis said, Hoare may “exercise his right to appeals within the diocese as well as to the Holy See in Rome, and a final determination of his status will be shared at a later date.”
Jugis said the diocese’s decision “aligns with our unwavering commitment to accountability and to providing a safe environment for all.”
THE PA. INVESTIGATION
The Abington Township Police Department in suburban Philadelphia investigated the allegation, along with a similar claim of abuse in Pennsylvania “that subsequently emerged,” according to the bishop’s letter.
The allegations involved “accusations of inappropriate touching of relatives in the 1980s and early 1990s” when Hoare was a teen and in his early 20s, Jugis said.
In February, Abington police told the diocese their investigation “found the claimants to be credible but, citing the statute of limitations, local authorities said they were unable to bring charges.”
Under Pennsylvania law, the diocese wasn’t allowed access to the police investigation, according to the bishop.
Jugis said he asked the diocese’s Lay Review Board to conduct its own investigation.
According to Jugis, the review board found some of the allegations “credible,” but “no specific incident of sexual abuse of a minor was identified based on the evidence presented and recollections of ages and events decades earlier.”
The diocese has received no allegations of Hoare committing abuse during his ministry in the diocese, Jugis said.
The review board, however, considered three complaints against Hoare alleging “several instances of inappropriate physical contact with minors that were observed by others in group settings at St. Matthew and St. John Neumann parishes,” Jugis said.
“These complaints were reported recently and did not constitute sexual abuse but involved a hug, rubbing the shoulders or abdomen of a minor, and being ‘very touchy,’ " Jugis said. “The Review Board concluded such behavior represented boundary violations that raised questions about Father Hoare’s judgment.”