November 05, 2005

The Episcopal diocese protects one parishioner who preyed on its flock and excommunicates another

Virtue Online

By Adam Ferrell
Charleston City Paper
November 3, 2005

It's not just Catholic churches that harbor pedophiles and sex offenders. Churches of any kind can unwittingly provide predators access to children in trusting environments, as a controversial case with a Folly Road Episcopal church parishioner shows.

On Oct. 11, Mack Swafford, 65, a former lay leader at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Folly Road, became a registered sex offender. Swafford pled guilty to charges in connection with his arrest about a year ago after three men accused him of sexual improprieties dating back to 1983 and ending in 1990. The men, two of them brothers, told police Swafford fondled and kissed one, 11 years old in the beginning, and performed oral sex on the other two, ages 16 and 17, during the alleged incidents.

Police did not learn of Swafford's crimes until 2004, ten years after he admitted to church leaders that he molested two boys in their flock

Because of Swafford's position and relationship with Holy Trinity, where some of the incidents occurred, this case shines a critical light on how the church, its leaders, and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina responded to allegations of child sexual abuse, which were reported in 1994 and handled internally, as no law required the church to report the incidents to the police. Law enforcement entered the picture years later, when the victims finally decided to come forward.

At least two former parishioners have accused the church and the diocese of protecting a pedophile, a charge the clergy adamantly denies.

Posted by kshaw at November 5, 2005 07:53 AM