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Catholics Vent Over Priests, Leaders

May 30, 2002 | The Charlotte Observer

A small but troubled group of Roman Catholics expressed their lack of trust Wednesday in the leadership of a church rocked by sexual abuse.

Gathered at what the Rev. Paul Gary of St. Patrick Cathedral hopes can be a regular meeting to clear the air, 15 members of the Dilworth parish took turns condemning abusive priests and national church leaders who covered up their crimes.

Julie Cashman led the venting, saying she'd take suspicions about a priest to Gary or the police before she'd share them with Bishop William Curlin, head of the Charlotte diocese.

While not offering answers, Gary said he'd share parishioners' concerns with Curlin. He also said Curlin is accessible: "He's very open. He's right down the street. All we have to do is find him at home."

Mary Belk criticized Cardinal Bernard Law's handling of the scandal in the Boston archdiocese, and Pope John Paul II's ruling out a review of celibacy and women in the priesthood. She said that while the older generation of Catholics believed the church was the law, the younger generation "doesn't accept that.''

The scandal has found its way to the three dioceses that serve the nearly half-million Catholics living in the Carolinas.

Seven cases of alleged sexual misconduct involving priests and one religious brother have been reported by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.

In the latest case in South Carolina, a priest in Aiken has been suspended by the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston after a man told investigators the priest sexually assaulted him 25 years ago. The unidentified man, in his 30s, made the allegation against Msgr. Thomas Evatt, saying he was abused at Charleston's St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Charlotte's St. Patrick Cathedral isn't the first parish to respond to the scandal with special events. Earlier this month at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Hickory, more than 80 members shared their anger and frustration at a forum.

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