South Carolina

Priest placed on leave while SC police investigate ‘inappropriate’ behavior, church says

A priest at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church in Aiken, SC, is on administrative leave while deputies investigate allegations that he exchanged inappropriate pictures with a boy on an adult social media app.
A priest at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church in Aiken, SC, is on administrative leave while deputies investigate allegations that he exchanged inappropriate pictures with a boy on an adult social media app. Screen shot from Google Maps

A South Carolina priest is on administrative leave while authorities investigate accusations that he exchanged inappropriate pictures with a boy in an adult social media app.

Father Raymond Flores, a parochial vicar at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church in Aiken, was placed on administrative leave without the ability to perform priestly duties “as a result of behavior inappropriate of a priest,” the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston said in a news release Tuesday.

The diocese provided few details about the circumstances that warranted Flores’ leave, but said the conduct did not involve the touching of a child.

In an incident report from the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, deputies wrote that the victim, a boy, said he and Flores began an online conversation via an adult social media application. Deputies did not specify the boy’s age.

“During the conversations, photographs were exchanged of genitalia between the victim and the subject,” the report states.

Deputies did not identify the social media app in which Flores and the boy allegedly communicated, or if they knew each other before they began communicating in the app.

The boy’s family did not wish for further investigation, according to the report.

Flores has been at the church since September, the Aiken standard reported.

Investigators have just begun looking into the case and cannot speculate on whether charges will be brought, said Capt. Eric Abdullah, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

“The safety of children and youth is a top priority at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church and School, and in all parishes and schools throughout the Diocese of Charleston,” the diocese said in the release. “Additionally, diocesan officials provide appropriate resources to those involved in situations affecting or potentially affecting young people.”

The diocese released a second statement Tuesday night.

“The Catholic Diocese of Charleston made every effort to protect the privacy of the minor involved in the incident with Father Raymond Flores,” reads the statement provided by director of media relations Maria Aselage. “Father Flores did not target the youth online. He and the young man exchanged information on an app intended for adults.”

Teddy Kulmala covers breaking news for The State and covered crime and courts for seven years in Columbia, Rock Hill, Aiken and Lumberton, N.C. He graduated from Clemson University and grew up in Barnwell County.
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