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Alleged victim declines prosecution against former Diocese of Charlotte priest

Records reveal CMPD cleared its investigation into Father Francis P. Gillespie, but a civil lawsuit against the former Charlotte priest and others remains pending.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The criminal investigation into a former Charlotte priest, accused in a pending lawsuit of sexually abusing a boy multiple times more than 20 years ago, is now closed, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department records. 

A police report reveals CMPD cleared its investigation into Jesuit Father Francis P. Gillespie in November after the alleged victim "chose not to prosecute."

EDITOR'S NOTE: WCNC is no longer showing the photo of Father Francis P. Gillespie as the criminal case has been closed.

The Diocese of Charlotte previously reported church officials notified CMPD and the Department of Social Services in October of a new allegation of child sexual abuse against the former pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Church after learning of the alleged abuse.

Gillespie, the diocese and Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools are all named as defendants in a lawsuit the alleged victim filed in November. According to the lawsuit, while the boy was a student at Our Lady of Assumption Elementary School, the priest regularly sexually assaulted him in the church sacristy after gaining his trust. 

The lawsuit also said Gillespie told the boy not to tell anyone. The assaults began sometime in the 1996-1997 school year and continued through the 1999-2000 school year, according to the lawsuit.

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“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,” according to the lawsuit.

Gillespie most recently worked at Saint Mary-Laurinburg in the Diocese of Raleigh after previously serving as pastor at Our Lady of the Assumption Church and School from 1994 to 2001. His supervising religious order, the Jesuits, removed him from ministry in Raleigh in late September pending the investigation of the allegation.

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"At present, there are active legal proceedings that have been commenced in the courts," USA East Province of the Society of Jesus Director of Communications Mike Gabriele said. "Therefore, the Province defers any comments until the conclusion of all legal proceedings and any related investigations."

Gillespie is not listed on the Diocese of Charlotte's accountability website. In a statement, the diocese said its independent review of personnel and other files in 2019 "found no record of allegations from anyone against Gillespie." That said, a spokesperson said the diocese will learn more now that this is the subject of litigation, which will help church officials determine whether there is "appropriate action for the diocese to take."

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"The Charlotte Diocese has zero-tolerance for child sexual abuse and we encourage anyone who has been the victim of abuse to seek help and report to authorities," the diocese previously said in a statement. "We also pray for peace and healing for abuse victims and their families and communities."

Contact Nate Morabito at nmorabito@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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