Bishop apologizes to sexual abuse victims in special service

SAVANNAH, Ga. – “There’s no way I would be standing here if it wasn’t for my family and the support of all my friends in Savannah and in the community,” Chris Templeton, who was sexually abused by a priest back in 1987, said. “There’s no way I could’ve done it alone.”

A service of consolation was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Lafayette Square Wednesday night.

Bishop Gregory Hartmayer said the gathering was for the suffering at the innocent at the hands of priests.

One man in particular anxiously waited for that Lenten service.

Chris Templeton was just 13 years old when he was raped by former Priest Wayland Brown.

Templeton has shared his difficult story with News 3 saying he was raped more than 50 times by Brown at St. James.

It took some time for him to remember the story. By the time he did he took action against the church. In 2016, he filed a lawsuit, won and shared his story.

So just before walking through the doors of the church Templeton expressed his expectations of the church’s efforts.

“My expectations are probably higher than they should be because I want so much good things to happen.” Templeton said. “I’ve been a catholic all my life and very proud to be a catholic.”

The service was full of scripture and music along with a confession and apology from the Bishop.

“Recently we have had to admit the far too many innocent ones have lived with the pain of abuse at the hands of those who have protected them,” Hartmayer said. “I am truly sorry for any pain that a church minister might have inflicted on any person here or upon any relative or friend of anyone gathered here.”

Templeton, other victims and counselors lit a candle during the service representing themselves and others. After that and hearing the apology Templeton said his expectations were met.

“To hear the bishop up there in his homily admit that we’ve had this issue in Savannah and there has been problems and that he’s going to fight to make sure it doesn’t happen again, that meant everything in the world,” Templeton said.

Now, he’ll take what happened to him when he was younger and turn it into something positive moving forward.

“I want to help others that have gone through what I’ve gone through, to help other families with children who have gone through what I went through,” Templeton said.

Hartmayer also acknowledged that the church itself has too often been a hindrance to exposing the priest abuse problem and getting closure for the victims.

If you are a victim of abuse or rape there is way you can get help by contacting the Rape Crisis Center hotline at 912-233-3000.

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