Retired Knoxville Priest Removed from Ministry after Admitting to Abuse

By Dan Mcwilliams
U.S. Catholic
April 19, 2010

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- A retired priest in the Knoxville Diocese has been permanently removed from ministry after admitting there is credibility to an Indiana man's accusation of sexual abuse against him.

Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville announced the action regarding Father William "Bill" Casey, 76, of Greeneville at a press conference April 15.

Warren A. Tucker, 44, of Jeffersonville, Ind., said Father Casey "sexually abused me in every way imaginable" from the time he was 10 to about age 15. At the time Father Casey was pastor of St. Dominic Parish in Kingsport, Tenn., and Tucker was a student at St. Dominic School.

"I want to assure you that Father Casey has now been removed from ministry, and he will never again function as a priest of the church," said Bishop Stika, later adding that "as bishop of the Catholic Church of east Tennessee, I want to apologize to Mr. Tucker, to his family, and to anyone else who has been harmed by Father Casey."

Tucker contacted the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which urged him to come forward with his allegation. Susan Vance, east Tennessee coordinator for SNAP of Tennessee, was with Tucker when he went public with his story April 14 by reading a statement to local media in the parking lot of the chancery office in Knoxville.

He gave the diocesan chancellor, Deacon Sean Smith, and a member of the Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board a detailed account the same day. At that point, as per diocesan policy, Father Casey was suspended from ministry, pending an investigation. That evening, Bishop Stika met with Father Casey, who "admitted that there is credibility to Mr. Tucker's statement," said the bishop. Father Casey was then permanently removed from ministry.

"Father Casey is ashamed of his actions and truly saddened by the harm he has caused Mr. Tucker, his family, the church and all the faithful of the church," said the bishop, who along with Deacon Smith apologized in person to Tucker April 15 at the chancery.

The alleged abuse took place in Kingsport, Tenn., and on trips he took with Father Casey to McDowell County, N.C., said Tucker. He filed a criminal complaint against Father Casey in September in Marion, N.C., because North Carolina -- unlike Tennessee -- does not have a statute of limitations on charges of childhood sexual abuse.

Bishop Stika said the diocese "had no knowledge of Mr. Tucker's experiences" until Tucker met with Deacon Smith.

When he became the head of the diocese last year, Bishop Stika said, he "read every priest's file to make sure that there's nothing lurking in someone's past. Last night, I once again went through (Father Casey's) file just to make sure I didn't miss anything. I can assure folks there is nothing in his file. We have not had any complaints over his years as a priest."

The bishop wrote a letter that was read at all weekend Masses on April 17 and 18 "to inform all of the parishioners of these allegations" and to "invite any others who may have been harmed to please come forward." Bishop Stika said that Father Casey "indicated that there potentially could be other victims early in his priesthood."

"If anyone else has been harmed, the church wants to reach out to them and also (wants them) to report this to the legal authorities," said Bishop Stika.

Father Casey said that "some of this happened in the early days of his priesthood, that at some point he realized how wrong it was and decided to stop, and that for the last number of years, a significant amount of years, he has not abused any children," the bishop said.

The bishop said that sexual abuse of a child is a "plague that's a part of society in which we live."

"If there's someone out there who would harm a child, it's an abomination against God," he said, adding that "it's not to be tolerated."

Deacon Smith said the diocese has notified the district attorney's offices in Greene County, where Father Casey lives now; Sullivan County, where Father Casey served at the time of the alleged abuse; and even Knox County, because the diocese has its headquarters there.

Bishop Stika said he "feels bad for Father Casey, but I feel horrible for Mr. Tucker, and I'll work with both of them. We're not going to abandon Father Casey. We're going to try to help him cope with what he's done and learn from his experience, but also make sure he lives a good life, an abiding life and that he's monitored and accountable."


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