Charlotte Diocese files response in civil lawsuit involving Farwell abuse allegation
CHARLOTTE — The Diocese of Charlotte is seeking to have a court dismiss a civil lawsuit connected to a sexual abuse case involving Father Richard B. Farwell.
Father Farwell was removed from public ministry by the diocese in 2002 and was subsequently fired from a Florida-based Catholic charity after an investigation was launched following an abuse claim made against him.
Father Farwell, 63, pleaded no contest in 2004 to one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He now lives in Pompano Beach, Fla.
The civil lawsuit was filed in Mecklenburg County Superior Court in July by attorneys representing a man who is one of two alleged victims who came forward in 2002, contending he had been sexually abused by Father Farwell as a teenager in the mid-1980s, and upon whose allegations an indictment was sought. The civil lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages of at least $10,000.
The civil lawsuit claims that the Charlotte diocese committed fraud and negligence by concealing knowledge of Father Farwell's allegedly abusive behavior.
The diocese filed what is known as a responsive pleading on Sept. 30, asking that the case be dismissed based on the North Carolina statute of limitations.
When the abuse claim was made in 2002, the diocese reported the allegation to the N.C. Department of Social Services in Rowan County, where the abuse allegedly occurred. The diocese also removed Father Farwell from ministry, meaning he could not celebrate the Mass or sacraments publicly, or wear priestly garb – in accordance with the U.S. bishops' nationwide policy on responding to cases of alleged sexual misconduct called the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The suspension remains in effect.
Father Farwell was indicted in Rowan County Superior Court on two felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child in 2003. In 2004, one felony charge was dismissed and the other was reduced to a misdemeanor in return for Father Farwell pleading no contest to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Father Farwell denied any wrongdoing when he accepted the plea. He was sentenced to supervised probation for 18 months and fined $1,000 plus court costs, according to a copy of the plea agreement filed with Rowan County Superior Court.
Documents from the 2004 Rowan County criminal proceeding have been attached as exhibits to the diocese's motion to dismiss.
Father Farwell was ordained in 1981. In addition to Sacred Heart Church, he served at St. Ann Church in Charlotte, St. Aloysius Church in Hickory, St. Dorothy Church in Lincolnton and Queen of the Apostles Church in Belmont; and in the Diocese of Raleigh, he served at St. Joseph Church in Burgaw and Transfiguration Mission in Wallace.
--David Hains and Patricia Guilfoyle
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy