High Court to Hear Case of Priest Child Abuse

By Judith R. Tackett
Nashville City Paper [Nashville TN]
October 1, 2004

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear a sexual abuse case next week in which two boys claim the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville is to be held responsible for the abuse they suffered from a former priest.

The court hearing in the case Doe et al. v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville is set for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals sided last year with the trial judge, Davidson County Circuit Judge Walter Kurtz, in his decision that the Nashville Diocese was not liable for the molestation that happened years after the Diocese ended any affiliation with former priest Edward McKeown.

In its written opinion the Tennessee Appeals Court stated that the plaintiffs "had failed as a matter of law to satisfy the threshold requirements for stating a claim for the tort of outrageous conduct."

In other words, the two victims, now in their early 20s, seek to hold Nashville's Catholic Diocese liable because they allege failure on the part of church officials to properly report McKeown's conduct to authorities after they discovered the priest's sexual abuse.

According to the Appeals Court, McKeown became a priest in 1970, and in 1986 a parent reported to the Diocese that McKeown had molested her son in 1972 or 1973 while the boy was attending a Diocese school.

When the Bishop confronted him, McKeown admitted to the abuse. Consequently he was sent away for treatment of his sexual disorder.

McKeown returned to Nashville in 1987 and continued counseling and received Depo-Provera injections, a birth control drug used for chemical castration in male sex offenders. In 1989, the Diocese removed McKeown from priesthood after they found he had given a condom as a Christmas gift to a minor.

The Diocese assisted him financially until 1994 - a total of $50,000. The plaintiffs termed the amount as "hush money."

The plaintiffs met McKeown in the trailer park they lived in. He befriended them and their mothers and in 1994 started molesting John Doe 2 and the following year John Doe 1.

Even though McKeown was at that time not affiliated with the Church, "the Does fault the Diocese primarily for not properly investigating and reporting Mr. McKeown to the authorities so that he would have been prosecuted and imprisoned and, consequently, unable to molest them," the Appeals Court opinion reads.

The plaintiffs seek $8 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages from the Diocese.


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