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Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, S.C., says abuse allegation deemed unfounded by Vatican: ‘I am innocent’

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Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, S.C., outside the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia in 2017. (CNS photo/Mic Smith, The Catholic Miscellany)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston said a Vatican investigation into a sexual abuse allegation against him “has no semblance of truth and is thus unfounded” in a letter to the priests of the diocese.

“While not surprising to me, it is very welcomed news as it confirms what I have adamantly stated; I am innocent of the accusation that was made against me,” he wrote in the letter dated Dec. 4.

The diocese released the letter in a Dec. 6 news release.

Bishop Guglielmone expressed gratitude for the encouragement and prayers offered by the priests during what he termed a difficult time. “Your support helped me tremendously as I waited for the allegation to go through the review process,” he wrote.

The allegation surfaced in a lawsuit, Powers v. Diocese of Rockville Centre, filed Aug. 14, 2019 in a New York court. The plaintiff alleged that Bishop Guglielmone sexually abused him in 1978 or 1979. At the time, Bishop Guglielmone was serving as a priest at St. Martin of Tours Church in Amityville, New York, in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Attorneys for Bishop Guglielmone denied the allegation, saying it was “provably false.”

The Diocese of Charleston said after the lawsuit was filed the abuse allegation was not determined to be credible when it was made and information regarding the allegation was provided to law enforcement.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre said after the lawsuit filing that it had “first reported this allegation to law enforcement authorities in 2006.” The diocese said it received the allegation again in June 2018 and that it too was forwarded to law enforcement authorities. The Vatican asked Bishop John O. Barres of Rockville Centre to conduct a canonical investigation.

In his letter to priests, Bishop Guglielmone said he was pleased to announce the end of “this canonical matter” in Advent “during which the hope of all God’s children came to be realized by His chosen people in the birth of the Savior.”

“As we prepare for the celebration of that wonderful event let us rejoice in Emmanuel, God with us,” he said.