WHEELING - A Clarksburg man is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, claiming a priest sexually harassed him for more than three years, which led him to depression and suicide attempts.
Due to the sensitive nature of the suit, the plaintiff is identified as John Doe.
The suit was filed in Ohio Circuit Court against the Diocese, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, Bishop Bernard William Schmitt, and Barbara Jane Arbogast, executrix of the estate of the late Charles E. McCallister.
John Doe is a 19-year-old male from Clarksburg. He claims that when he was 15 he was sexually abused by Father Charles McCallister. McCallister, who died Oct. 13, 2007, was a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which operates the parishes and Catholic schools in West Virginia.
According to the suit, John Doe was raised Roman Catholic and served as an altar boy and youth lector at the Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksburg. McCallister, although not assigned to the church, often performed mass and other duties at the church, and his office was adjacent to the meeting room of the church's youth group.
John Doe claims McCallister began to sexually abuse him at the church and the sexual harassment frequently occurred there.
"The abuse included mutual masturbation, and McCallister urged plaintiff to penetrate him anally and attempted to have the plaintiff perform oral sex on him," the suit says.
According to the suit, the abuse took place for approximately three years and at least 50 different sessions in the church sacristy and other location, including out of town.
John Doe claims he believed it would sinful or wrong to make any kind of accusation against a priest or bishop, and that priests and bishops could not and would not engage in conduct considered evil or wrong or illegal, the suit says.
According to the suit, McCallister had a history of sexual abuse of minors prior to 2003. Because of his history, McCallister was not assigned to a church from 1991 to 2007. However, he was allowed to perform as a priest at Immaculate Conception Church.
The suit says the Diocese had received at least one report of inappropriate conduct by the priest with a young male but failed to conduct an investigation.
John Doe claims his family did not know about the abuse until Spring 2006, when he told his parents. In September 2006, he began college and began to suffer from depression. During his first spring semester his condition deteriorated and he was hospitalized in March 2007. He also allegedly attempted suicide more than once.
According to the suit, his hospitalization stemmed from the sexual abuse from McCallister.
At the time of his hospitalization, his physician reported the abuse on the Wheeling Hot Line for Abuse. According to the suit, the abuse was reported to the Diocese, the West Virginia State Police and the Harrison County District Attorney.
According to the suit, a priest in the Diocese repeatedly contacted the plaintiff, urging him not to press criminal charges.
"Based on the investigation by the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, the prosecution offered a plea agreement to McCallister allowing him to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of third degree sexual abuse with limited information to the public," the suit says.
McCallister initially agreed to the plea agreement but later declined, the suit says. Felony warrants were to be issued Oct. 12, 2007. McCallister was to appear to receive the warrants Oct. 15. According to the suit, McCallister was found dead in his home Oct. 13, 2007.
John Doe claims the Diocese knew of McCallister's pass and still allowed him to be around children. He claims the church exhibited an ongoing pattern of conduct involving secrecy and concealment of sexual involvement by the Diocese priests, including McCallister.
According to the suit, John Doe suffered severe mental anguish and trauma, untold humiliation and embarrassment, extensive and permanent damages to his sexual and psychological development, loss of faith in God, shock to the system, headaches, nausea and loss of sleep upon learning of the active involvement of the church in protecting known child molesters.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Attorneys Alan H. Perer and Michael Simon are representing the plaintiff.