Group Urges Diocese to Expose Pedophile Priests
Conference Here Seeks to Develop Ways to Help Victims

By Natalia Mielczarek
Tennessean [Tennessee]
July 17, 2005

Members of an organization that supports victims of sexual abuse by priests demanded yesterday that the Diocese of Nashville remove priests who are accused of sexual abuse from church and release their names.

They said it would create a more welcoming atmosphere for victims to come forward.

A diocese spokesman said no priest credibly accused of sexual molestation is serving here and that the diocese has made an effort for years to counsel and work with victims.

Members of the Tennessee chapter of The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) gathered here yesterday for their first statewide conference to brainstorm how to stop what they perceive as stonewalling by various dioceses and how to persuade abuse victims to tell their stories.

"These are crimes that have been committed against innocent children, teens and vulnerable adults," Susan Vance, SNAP's co-director, said as she stood outside the diocese's office here.

"The church, at the very least, should mete out its severest punishment, and that is defrocking. This is a serious problem, and justice has been denied to victims by this very church," she said.

Rick Musacchio, spokesman for the Diocese of Nashville, which encompasses more than 50 churches and missions in the Midstate, said: "We have no one who has been credibly accused of abuse serving in ministry in any capacity.

"We have not had a credible contemporary allegation come forward in nearly 20 years, but we still have a review board in place to advise us in responding to abuse."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 commissioned surveys that tallied cases of sexual abuse by priests and costs from 1950 to 2002. The study found 10,667 claims of sexual molestation in those years. About 4% of all American priests who served during this time — 4,392 of the 109,694 of all clergy — were accused of abuse.

The Diocese of Nashville reported in the study 30 allegations of abuse and seven names of priests who served in church during those years, Musacchio said. The names of those priests have not been made public.

Anyone who is found to be credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor is permanently removed from the priesthood, Musacchio said.

An advisory board, composed of a mental health professional, a victim's advocate, a parent of a victim and a federal judge, reviews the accusations and determines whether the charges are credible, he said.

SNAP members asked the diocese to change its attitude toward people who claim they've been sexually assaulted by priests.

"We're not the monsters here; we're not looking for money," said David Brown, a member of SNAP who said he was abused by a former Father Ryan High School priest, Paul Frederick Haas. Haas died in 1978.

"We're looking for answers, and we're looking for help and love. This diocese in particular is not creating an environment where a victim feels like he's going to be believed, like he's going to be trusted and loved."

That's not the case, Musacchio said. The diocese has encouraged victims to seek healing.

"We've apologized for the past abuse. We can't change the past, but we can work diligently to see to it that it never happens again. That's why we've extended much effort on the safe-environment program. Our policies and procedures are in place to encourage victims of past abuse to come forward."