Diocese of Charleston responds to Columbia community

COLUMBIA — The Diocese of Charleston is “deeply distressed” by criminal sexual misconduct charges against a former part-time basketball coach at Cardinal Newman High School and is responding to the Columbia community.

Charles Sullivan, who served as coach of the boys’ “B” basketball team during the 1996-97 season and as a volunteer assistant to the junior varsity basketball coach this year, was arrested Friday (Dec. 12) and charged with 13 counts of criminal sexual misconduct involving two victims.

“We are doing everything we can to reach out to the students and their families,” said Mary M. Jeffcoat, the diocesan director of Communications and Information.

“On Monday, we met with all the students at Cardinal Newman in assemblies facilitated by a team of professionals, including the diocese’s Victim Assistance Minister, Jean Sullivan, a social worker specially trained to deal with these matters. She was able to listen to students’ concerns and arrange for any necessary counseling.

“Anyone may contact the Victim Assistance Minister at (803) 958-0450,” Jeffcoat said.

A diocesan team also met Monday morning with teachers, to advise them of the situation and help them respond to students.

Representatives of the school and the diocese, including Bishop David B. Thompson, met Tuesday with parents to listen to their concerns, answer their questions and to reach out to families with pastoral care and concern, Jeffcoat said.

“We are committed to protecting the children in our care,” she said.

In addition, the diocese is cooperating fully with authorities and has reached out in a pastoral way to the accused and his family,” Jeffcoat said.

In 1994, the diocese adopted a strict policy, consistent with the guidelines of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, concerning sexual abuse of minors by church personnel. By adopting this policy, the diocese publicly commits to protecting children first and foremost, cooperating fully with civil and church investigations, showing compassion for the accuser and the accused, and reaching out in a caring, pastoral way so that healing can take place.