Civic Clubs Added to West Virginia Church Abuse Lawsuit

May 27, 2008

A West Virginia teenager suing a Roman Catholic Diocese claiming he was sexually abused has added a service organization to his lawsuit, his lawyer says.

The Clarksburg teen, who was not identified in court papers, is seeking damages from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, as well as former and current church officials and now the Key Club chapter of West Virginia.

The amended lawsuit claims that the late Rev. Charles E. McCallister sexually abused the now 19-year-old at a hotel during district and state Key Club conventions. It also alleges that an organization overseeing the Key Club allowed McCallister to return after receiving at least one report that he had inappropriate contact with a minor.

A lawyer for the Key and Kiwanis clubs disputed the allegations, including that McAllister had been previously suspended by Kiwanis as alleged by the plaintiffs.

“These defendants had no knowledge of alleged prior bad acts of Father McAllister,” attorney Joseph M. Farrell Jr. said.

The amended lawsuit said McCallister was the administrator of the Key Club at Clarksburg’s Liberty High School. The lawsuit claims McCallister sexually abused the teenager for three years, starting in 2003 while he was a Key Club member. The Key Club is a service organization with affiliates on more than 5,000 high school campuses, primarily in the United States and Canada.

The original lawsuit filed in February accuses the diocese of negligence and claims church officials covered up the alleged sexual abuse.

The diocese initially denied the allegations but later reported them to authorities in March 2007. The diocese suspended McCallister, who died in October as police were investigating.

The lawsuit claims the abuse made the 19-year-old depressed after he began college. He was hospitalized in March 2007 and withdrew from college. He also attempted suicide on several occasions, the lawsuit said.

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