A grand jury Monday indicted priest Richard Farwell, who formerly pastored churches in Salisbury and Lincolnton, on a felony charge that he took indecent liberties with a Rowan County boy in the mid-1980s.
Farwell is the first N.C. priest to be indicted on a sex-related charge since an abuse crisis began rocking the Roman Catholic Church earlier this year.
Neither Farwell nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Monday.
Farwell, now living in Florida, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The charge stems from an alleged incident between July 1, 1983, and May 12, 1985, when he was an assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salisbury.
Prosecutors could not give a specific date for the incident, but the victim was between 12 and 14 years old during the period cited in the indictment.
The allegations arose in 1999. A year later, Charlotte Bishop William Curlin wrote a reference letter on Farwell’s behalf to Food For The Poor, a charity in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Curlin said he wrote the letter of reference because the diocese determined that the allegation against Farwell was not credible. Curlin was out of town Monday and not available for comment.
The Charlotte Diocese placed Farwell on administrative leave in April, after the diocese received a letter from the victim’s family reiterating the 1999 accusation. Soon afterward, he was fired from his job with Food For The Poor.
The Rev. Mauricio West, vicar general and chancellor of the Charlotte Diocese, released this statement: “Father Farwell intends to respond. As in the past, the diocese will cooperate with appropriate authorities.”
Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly said an order of arrest is likely to be issued today, and Farwell will be asked to turn himself in to Rowan County authorities.
Farwell’s most recent assignment in the Charlotte Diocese was as priest at St. Dorothy Catholic Church in Lincolnton.