First on WCCB: Allegations Against Priest Once Connected to Charlotte Diocese

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Father Robert Spangenberg, at one time assigned to a church in the Charlotte Diocese, is named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report as one of the more than 300 so-called “predator priests.” Spangenberg is now dead.

We could only find one picture of him, from a 1984 newspaper clipping, when he was 37. He’d just been appointed pastor to a Catholic church in the Pittsburgh suburbs. The first abuse allegation against him came in 1988. A woman notified the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the Vatican, that he was abusing her son.

Spangenberg was ultimately reassigned to Florida. In 1990, Spangenberg went to Charleston. Then Philadelphia. And then, in 1994, he was assigned to St. James Church, in Hamlet, North Carolina. Charlotte Diocese spokesman David Hains tells WCCB that Spangenberg came to North Carolina with a “letter of good standing.”

Hains says when he learned Spangenberg was named in the grand jury report, his first concern was for the people in the Hamlet parish. He says, “And we looked into it and found there were absolutely no complaints or anything filed while he was here, and he was not sent away from the Diocese because of any transgression, his order just decided that they would transfer him.”

It’s unclear when Spangenberg left Hamlet, and it’s roughly 350 member congregation, but it was likely around 1997. He went to Pittsburgh, then back to Florida, before retiring in 2003.

The second abuse allegation came in 2009, when a man reported that when he was 15 to 16 years old, he and Spangenberg “engaged in many types of sexual encounters.” The man reported that Spangenberg was high sometimes, and that the priest paid the boy for sex with drugs, alcohol, or money from the collection box.

The man also alleges that Spangenberg paid him “finders fees” to locate other young boys to have sex with. The grand jury report indicates Spangenberg could have been involved with more than two children. Hains says the Charlotte Diocese doesn’t think any allegations will arise from Spangenberg’s time in Hamlet, but, “If somebody has a story to tell, we are more than willing to listen, and if they tell us a story, we are going to contact the authorities,” and, “While we are extremely sorry for what has happened and obviously what has continued to happen in our church, we are in prayer for all of the victims of sexual abuse, not just for those who were abused by church workers.”

Spangenberg also worked for the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh in the late 70s. We are told Raleigh is not aware of any complaints against him during his time in North Carolina, or since he was named in the grand jury report. The Pittsburgh Diocese, and another Catholic group, continue to pay for therapy, medication, job searches, criminal court costs and child support costs for the man who came forward in 2009.