Lawsuits Accuse 2 Priests of Abuse
Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Date Back to 1980s
By James Dowd
September 15, 2006
The Catholic Diocese of Memphis faces new lawsuits charging sexual abuse by priests, and additional suits are likely to follow, an attorney said Thursday.
In separate suits filed in Circuit Court Thursday morning, plaintiffs listed simply as Jane Doe and John Doe alleged multiple counts of sexual abuse by two local priests dating back to the mid-1980s.
Miami lawyer Jeffrey Herman, whose firm represents both plaintiffs, promised this is only the first "wave of suits" from other abuse victims.
"We've heard from dozens of victims, and those suits will be brought forward soon," Herman said. "We call on the bishop and the diocese to be transparent in telling what they knew and when they knew it."
Jane Doe, 23, now a California resident, claims she was molested by Father Joseph Nguyen from 1994-1999. Nguyen served at several local parishes, including Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Germantown, St. Ann in Bartlett and St. Paul the Apostle in Memphis.
Recently, Nguyen had served as chaplain at St. Peter Villa. He has been removed from those duties pending an investigation by the diocesan review board.
"Father Nguyen will not perform any priestly ministries during the investigation," said Father John Geaney, diocesan spokesman. "Once any allegations are made, the diocese has a very specific, open process to follow. We're working for justice for victims and for priests."
John Doe, 37, and now living in Bartlett, claims he was sexually molested as a teen by Father Daniel DuPree. The alleged abuse began in 1985 when DuPree was a priest at Church of the Resurrection and continued for several years.
After several other Tennessee assignments, including St. Mary in Jackson and St. Andrew the Apostle in Lexington, DuPree left the diocese in 1992 and is now believed to be living in Texas.
Attempts to reach him on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Both lawsuits seek damages in excess of $10 million.
To date, the diocese has not made any financial settlements in other cases, Geaney said, but has paid for counseling services. Figures were not available Thursday.
But money is not the ultimate goal, said David Brown, who said he was sexually abused by a priest in Nashville more than four decades ago. Now a Memphis resident, Brown serves as coordinator of the local chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
"All we ever really wanted was for the diocese to tell the truth and show us they care about the victims, but this seems to be the only way to get a response," Brown said. "They may believe silence is golden, but not in this case. This time it's going to cost them."
Diocesan leaders and SNAP members agree on the seriousness of abuse allegations and encourage any victims to come forward. Both offer support groups and counseling services.
For more information or to report abuse, contact the diocese at 359-2027 or Brown at 569-4500.
James Dowd: 529-2737
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