A letter below the line from the Bishop of Pittsburgh regarding accusations of child sex abuse against former priest Charles Appel. Appel died in 2019.
In 2014 he was “sentenced in federal court to five years imprisonment, to be followed by 10 years of supervised release, on his conviction of receipt of material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor” (US Justice Department).
Appel renounced his priesthood after charges were brought against him under the Church’s clergy disciplinary system, according to Bishop McConnell. The diocese would not provide details of that case.
In his March letter to the diocese McConnell wrote,
Mr. Appel renounced his priesthood in the Episcopal Church in 2001, after charges were brought against him under the Church’s clergy disciplinary system. Before that time, he was involved at Calvary Camp from approximately 1971 until 1982 and was also vicar of the former Church of the Good Samaritan in Liberty Borough. In 2014, Mr. Appel was sentenced to five years in federal prison for receiving pornographic videos of children. He died in 2019.
It is not known whether the diocese took any action to identify possible victims of Appel following his 2014 sentencing. McDonnell was the diocesan bishop in 2014. The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan (later first Archbishop of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America) was the diocesan in 2001.
August 25, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
In March of this year, I announced that we had received a complaint of child sexual abuse against Charles Appel [link added], who was once a priest in this diocese. The man making the complaint reported that the abuse had occurred when he was a minor in the late 1970s and early 1980s. When I wrote to you about this complaint, I invited others who may have been similarly harmed to come forward, and I promised a further update this summer.
Since my March letter, a number of others did come forward to us, and they described a range of inappropriate or abusive misconduct. We have learned that abuse occurred at multiple locations, not just at Calvary Camp. We have also learned that the victims were not only boys. We do not know when the abuse began, and we do not know when it ended.
Both because the reported conduct occurred decades ago and because Mr. Appel died in 2019, there is much that we will probably never know. In particular, we do not know how the more limited safeguards in effect at the time may have let these victims down or may have been inadequate in other ways. But we do know that the abuse of children is always wrong, always has been wrong and harms the whole body of Christ. For these reasons, the Church has an urgent and ongoing duty to protect Christ’s little ones.
We are deeply grateful for the brave and generous survivors who have come forward and described what happened to them. Knowing about their painful experiences will shape the measures that we take to support the healing of Mr. Appel’s victims and allow us to strengthen further the ways in which we protect the physical, emotional, and spiritual safety of the children who participate in our ministries today.
While we cannot change the past, we can continue to listen, to learn, and to act on what we have learned from those who have come forward about Mr. Appel. Here in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, we must do all that we can to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again to another child or vulnerable person. You can be assured that I will share what we have learned from this situation with Bishop-elect Solak so that our diocese’s commitment to prevent abuse continues into the future.
As inadequate as it may seem today, on behalf of the church, I offer my deepest apologies to those who were harmed by Mr. Appel. We want you to know that your continued healing is important to us, and we hope we can walk with you as you continue to heal. It is my prayer that God will make reconciliation possible with all those who have been harmed in any way.
(The Rt. Rev.) Dorsey W.M. McConnell D.D.
VIII Bishop of Pittsburgh
Click here for a printable version of this letter.
Pictured: Bishop McConnell