A popular North Carolina pastor who has spoken out against sexually abusive priests has been hit with an accusation that he molested a minor 25 years ago before he entered the Catholic clergy.
Father Patrick T. Hoare sent a letter to his flock decrying “terrible crimes that were committed by some members of the clergy” shortly after the release of a scathing Pennsylvania grand jury report last year which detailed decades of child abuse by more than 300 “predator priests.”
But on Monday, Hoare was placed on administrative leave from his position at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Charlotte after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor 25 years ago, before he entered ministry.
The alleged incident happened in Pennsylvania, Bishop Peter Jugis of the Charlotte Diocese said in a statement.
“The alleged victim, now an adult, reported his allegations to the diocese yesterday and said he has been in touch with police and social services,” Jugis wrote. “The Charlotte diocese also has been in touch with police and will cooperate in any investigation.”
Jugis stressed that placing Hoare on administrative leave is “standard procedure” and “does not imply guilt.”
“Father Hoare has denied the allegation,” the bishop wrote. “We do not yet know the facts and have no indication of any issues at St. Matthew Church.”
The Charlotte Diocese said it was not sure if the victim was in touch with police in Pennsylvania or North Carolina. Hoare has not been charged with a crime and NBC News is unaware of any pending criminal investigation.
Hoare, who could not immediately be reached for comment, ran what America: The Jesuit Review called one of the largest parishes in the U.S. with 10,000 registered households.
Before that, Hoare lived in Pennsylvania, where he has family.
In his August 2018 letter, which has since been removed from the parish web site, Hoare wrote that it was necessary for the Catholic Church to “root out any element of evil among us.”
“These reports cause us great pain and in some cases anger toward those entrusted with the authority to administer justice and to keep vulnerable children and adults out of harm’s way,” Hoare wrote in an August 2018 letter that has since been removed off the parish website. “I humbly ask you to pray with us above all for healing and consolation for those who have been harmed, for justice to be done in each case of abuse, and that the hierarchy would decisively institute additional reforms to prevent this from happening again.”
Hoare is not one of the priests named in the 1,356-page Pennsylvania grand jury report released last year, which covered six of Pennsylvania's eight Roman Catholic dioceses. And a spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro declined to comment on this specific case.
"Our report speaks for itself," the spokesman, Mark Shade, said.