A Jesuit priest who worked in North Carolina accused of child sexual abuse in a lawsuit; SNAP is grateful to the victim and for the Safe Child Act

The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte and a Jesuit priest have been named in a lawsuit filed under the Safe Child Act. The complaint accuses Fr. Francis P. Gillespie of sexually abusing a boy at an elementary school over the course of four years.

According to the lawsuit filed by Attorney Richard Serbin, the “plaintiff kept the abuse to himself initially because of Gillespie’s warning and feelings of helplessness and thereafter due to ongoing feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment.” We understand only too well how painful it is to confront the harm suffered as a young child and we are grateful to this young man for pursuing accountability and justice through the Safe Child Act. We hope that this lawsuit will lead others who may have been victimized by clergy, brothers, nuns, and church staffers to come forward, report their claim to law enforcement, and begin healing. 

Fr. Gillespie was removed from ministry by the Jesuits in September of 2021, pending an investigation into the allegations that he sexually abused a boy between the years of 1994 to 1999, beginning when the child was 8 years old. At that time, the priest worked at Our Lady of the Assumption in Charlotte and the boy was an altar server and student at the parish school. The survivor filed his lawsuit this month. It is important to note that Fr. Gillespie worked in both the Charlotte and Raleigh Dioceses. Both bishops should be doing outreach to all the parish communities where the clergyman was assigned, begging anyone who experienced, witnessed, or suspected Fr. Gillespie of child sexual abuse to talk to the police. 

The accused clergyman was ordained in 1972. From 1972-1977, he worked as a student priest at the University of Texas in the Diocese of Austin. Then in 1978, Fr. Gillespie was assigned to the Jesuit-run St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. In 1983 the cleric was President of Research Associates at CARA (the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) in Washington DC, and from 1992-1993 he was part of the Jesuit community at Georgetown University. Fr. Gillespie then began working in parish ministry in both Charlotte and Raleigh Dioceses.

We hope that other victims who may have been abused by Fr. Gillespie, or anyone else, will be encouraged to come forward, make a report with law enforcement, and find the tools and resources to start healing. There are simply no words, no compensation, and certainly no magic that can take away the pain of child sexual abuse. We fully support the survivor in this case and wish him to know that his bravery will most certainly help others.

SNAP Leader Carol Yeager added, “North Carolina is no different than any other state when it comes to the historical and ongoing sexual abuse of children and the massive effort to conceal criminal activity by those in positions of authority in the Catholic Church. This case serves as a much-needed spotlight on our state. It’s about time!”

CONTACT:  Carol Yeager, SNAP Leader Fayetteville/Ft. Bragg, NC ([email protected]), 910-584-9113) Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


Showing 1 comment

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant