GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A Catholic priest in South Carolina has been placed on leave after he was sued by a woman who said the pastor manipulated her into a sexual relationship.
Father Wilbroad Mwape was removed at least temporarily as the pastor at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Greenville by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, The Greenville News reported.
Diocese spokesperson Maria Aselage said the church is reviewing the lawsuit and will respond later.
Both Mwape and the diocese are named in the lawsuit, filed in Orangeburg County.
Before coming to Greenville in 2020, Mwape was pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Orangeburg. It was there that the woman said Mwape started grooming her into a sexual relationship, growing her knowledge in the Catholic faith while also using her confessions about trouble in her marriage to prey on her vulnerabilities, according to her lawsuit.
The relationship between the two grew more physically intimate until she spent the night in the church’s rectory and they had sex, according to the lawsuit.
Mwape would later use hotel rooms paid for using a credit card from the Diocese of Charleston to continue the relationship, the woman said.
The lawsuit said Mwape’s behavior was covered up by the diocese and reflects a pattern of abuse in other Catholic churches.
Neither Mwape or the woman and her lawyer responded to messages from the newspaper.
Mwape has been a priest for 25 years. Around 2000, he took classes for hospital chaplains in Charleston, then returned to Zambia, was he was born. Mwape returned to the Charleston Diocese in 2015, the newspaper reported.