Five priests with connections to Winston-Salem and Forsyth County were accused of child sexual abuse — and the accusations found credible — the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte said in a report released Monday.

According to the report, four of the five priests were alleged to have committed the sexual abuse elsewhere but had assignments that included serving as chaplains at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School and Catholic churches in the area. But one — Andre Anthony Corbin — was alleged to have sexually abused children while he served as chaplain at Bishop McGuinness, which was in Winston-Salem in the 1960s and 1970s. 

The report was the result of the Charlotte diocese's review of records to determine how many priests who served in Western North Carolina before and after the diocese was established in 1972 had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse. 

The five priests with connections to Winston-Salem and Forsyth County are Louis A. Bonacci, Harold V. McGovern, William G. Ward, Joseph Kelleher and Corbin. All of them have been removed from ministry or have died. 

The Charlotte diocese spent a year reviewing 1,600 files going back 50 years to provide a list of priests who were credibly accused. The diocese's report provides three separate lists of priests — those who were credibly accused of sexual abuse since 1972, when the Charlotte diocese was established; those who served before 1972 and those who served in the Charlotte diocese but were accused of sexual abuse elsewhere.

The report comes as Catholic churches around the country release the names of priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse after pressure from victims. But critics also say that such lists continue to be incomplete. A recent Associated Press analysis found that more than 900 clergy members accused of child sexual abuse were not included in lists released by dioceses and religious orders where they served. The AP also found almost 400 priests and clergy members who were accused of abuse. The dioceses where they served have not yet released any names.

Bonacci was ordained in 1973 and had assignments that included Wake Forest University campus ministry and at St. Benedict the Moor church in Winston-Salem. No abuse allegations have been documented from these locations, but his religious order, the Jesuits, said in 2018 that he was credibly accused of abuse in the 1970s and early 1980s in Maryland. He was removed from the ministry in 2011 and left his religious order in 2014.

McGovern had assignments that included serving as chaplain at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School, when it was in Winston-Salem, Holy Cross in Kernersville and Immaculate Heart of Mary in High Point in the 1980s. In 2008, his religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, removed McGovern from ministry after a claim of sexual abuse from Delaware from the 1980s. 

Ward, ordained in 1950, served at St. Leo the Great in Winston-Salem. There were no documented incidents of abuse in Winston-Salem, but he was named in 2018 on a list of deceased priests with more than one abuse allegation in New York parishes in 1955-56 and 1966-71. He died in 2008.

Kelleher served at Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Lexington in the 1990s and was a chaplain at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Kernersville. In 2010, he was arrested after a man claimed Kelleher sexually abused him in 1977, when the man was 14 and Kelleher was pastor of Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Church in Albermarle. According to the report, Kelleher admitted the abuse in a police interview. A Superior Court judge in Stanly County dismissed a charge of indecent liberties after determining that Kelleher lacked the mental capacity to stand trial. He died in 2014 at the age of 86. 

Corbin served as chaplain at Bishop McGuinness, when it was in Winston-Salem and served at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Winston-Salem. In 1983, the Charlotte Diocese received an allegation about Corbin dating back to 1966, when Corbin served at the Gibbons Hall for Boys in Asheville. In 1970, the Raleigh diocese deemed Corbin unfit for ministry after he was accused of abuse at Bishop McGuinness. 

In 1988, Asheville police charged Corbin in connection with the alleged abuse at the Gibbons Hall for Boys. He pleaded guilty in 1989 to one count of indecent liberties with a child. Monday's report said there were additional allegations of sexual abuse coming out of Brevard and Winston-Salem in the 1960s but offers no further details about the allegations. Corbin died in 2008.

"It is painful to even try to comprehend such gravely immoral behavior," Charlotte Bishop Peter J. Jugis wrote in a letter Monday. "However, in speaking with survivors and hearing their stories, it is clear to me that making known the names of their abusers can promote healing for them and their families."

Get today’s top stories right in your inbox. Sign up for our daily morning newsletter.

mhewlett@wsjournal.com

336-727-7326

@mhewlettWSJ

wyoung@wsjournal.com

336-727-7369

@wyoungWSJ

Recommended for you

Load comments