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Priest admits attending love, sex therapy but denies abuse in video deposition

The Diocese of Charlotte decided to forbid Father Farwell from presenting himself as a priest in 2002, meaning he no longer can wear the collar and black clothing, spokesperson David Hains said.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A former altar boy broke his silence about the abuse he says he suffered at the hands of a Catholic priest. 

That priest admitted in a never before seen video deposition obtained by NBC Charlotte he once attended sex and love addiction therapy but denied ever sexually abusing children.

As a warning, this story includes adult content.

Father Richard Farwell is believed to live in Florida now, but for over two decades, he worked at several area Catholic churches and Charlotte Catholic High School. While not allowed to practice publicly anymore, he's still technically a priest.

A tearful Tony Triana said Farwell sexually abused him as a teen, more than 30 years ago.

"He pulled me towards him, and he pulled the towel down off of me," Triana said. "It causes years of doubt and no self worth. To take away the innocence of somebody, my life has been a series of problems."

Triana said he initially kept the abuse a secret but eventually reached out to the Salisbury Police Department in the early 2000s after a detective opened a criminal investigation into a separate allegation involving Farwell and made a public plea for more victims to come forward.

"The pain never goes away, and we bury this pain," he said.

That investigation led to two charges of indecent liberties with a child against Farwell in Rowan County, then a plea agreement. Farwell pleaded no contest to one lesser charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but did not admit guilt. He received probation. 

Records confirmed Triana was one of the two people who accused Farwell of the crime.

"For mine, they dismissed the charges because I was 16-years-old," he said.

In the years after, Triana and the family of the other victim filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Charlotte, which a judge dismissed due to the statute of limitations, but as part of the lawsuit, secured Farwell's church files and a video deposition in 2013.

"Can you tell me what you mean by as, 'I project myself as a sexual man who is authentic in wanting to form healthy, mutually, sharing and time-enduring relationships?'" the disposer asked him.

"I think that's about celibacy," Farwell replied.

In the deposition, Farwell denied abusing Triana.

"Did you ever engage in any sexual activity with Tony Triana?" an attorney asked.

"No," he replied.

Farwell also denied ever crossing the line with the other reported victim in the criminal case.

"Have you engaged in sexual behavior with minors?" the deposer asked.

"No," Farwell said.

While he denied ever sexually abusing kids, in the video he admitted he took it upon himself to attend Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous therapy during his time at a Massachusetts treatment facility for priests with a variety of problems. 

Church records showed the diocese sent him to the House of Affirmation in 1985 for four months. Farwell said he went there to treat depression, not sexual misconduct and not sex addiction. 

The priest said he eventually quit SLAA because he didn't find it beneficial and couldn't identify with the therapy. He said his issue was with friendships not sexual or romantic relationships.

"Did you think at that time that you were addicted to love?" an attorney asked.

"I had an issue with relationships," he responded."

"What issue was that?" the deposer asked.

"You know, how to maintain healthy relationships," he said.

"What problem did you have in maintaining relationships?" she asked.

"I'm really not sure, but I knew I had a problem," Farwell said.

The diocese decided to forbid Father Farwell from presenting himself as a priest in 2002, meaning he no longer can wear the collar and black clothing, Diocese of Charlotte spokesperson David Hains said.

"He is still a priest but he is forbidden from celebrating the sacraments publicly or presenting himself as a priest," Hains said.

In a letter sent to the diocese in 2004, Farwell called Triana's claims "complete and utter lies" and said the man was motivated "by the sheer greed of wanting monetary reward for his deceit," according to records.

"The trauma of being accused of such horrible acts; being stripped of my priestly faculties and the financial burden of trying to prove my innocence has taken a tremendous toll on me," he wrote.

As for the court case, in another letter, his attorney said while Farwell denied the allegations in criminal court, he pleaded no contest only after considering the possibility of a conviction and the reduced life expectancy of priests in prison.

"I have no second thoughts about Fr. Farwell's plea," attorney David Bingham wrote in a 2004 letter to the diocese. "From my point of view, the prospect of his being sent to prison, however remote we believed that prospect to be, was a risk no reasonable person would have taken. 

"As I have often explained, if you are handed a six-cylinder revolved and are required to put it to your head, the fact that only one chamber is loaded is small consolation as you pull the trigger," the letter continued.

NBC Charlotte has called and emailed Farwell's former attorneys multiple times over the last week. We have not heard back. We've also tried the previously listed phone numbers for Farwell with no success.

Triana's interview comes as world Catholic leaders are in Rome for the Vatican's sex abuse summit. The meeting will determine whether the Diocese of Charlotte releases a list of credibly accused priests here and who will end up on that list.

"I definitely want them to release a list of names and just to be honest," Triana said. "If this has happened to you, you've got to come forward. You can't just bury this. It's not going to go away."

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein also thinks the diocese should release a list.

"I believe in transparency," he said. "I think the people in that community deserve to know that, so they can have the tough conversations as a family they need to have."

Charlotte's counterpart in Charleston, S.C. plans on releasing its own list next month.

Stein, the state's top law enforcement official, also wants to change state law, so district attorneys can authorize broad investigations of a variety of topics, including institutional sex abuse. That proposal would not just allow for investigations of churches, but of little leagues, summer camps and other institutions. 

The proposal comes after a Pennsylvania grand jury identified 300 predator priests last year. Right now under state law, that type of grand jury investigation is not allowed in North Carolina.

"In the coming weeks we'll be introducing some legislation," Stein said. "We have to have confidence that the adults that are taking care of our children protect them and do not abuse them."

Mecklenburg County's DA told us he looks forward to discussing the proposal further.

"We anticipate further discussions with the Attorney General, and we look forward to further deliberation among the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys about the potential breadth and impact of his proposal," DA Spencer Merriweather said in a statement.

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