Possible second victim of alleged sexual abuse by Franklin priest, Diocese of Nashville says

WKRN - ABC 2 [Nashville TN]

January 8, 2024

By Tori Gessner

Diocese of Nashville investigation conducted by a former FBI agent led to the discovery of a potential second victim of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of a Franklin priest, according to officials.

The priest, who News 2 is not naming because no charges have been filed, was removed from his position as the associate pastor at the St. Philip Catholic Church and from public ministry in mid-November after a teen reported “improper touching” involving the priest, the Diocese of Nashville wrote in a release.

Rick Musacchio, a Diocese of Nashville spokesperson and the executive director of the Tennessee Catholic Conference, told News 2 the Diocese of Nashville followed its policies after its Safe Environment Office learned of the alleged abuse.

“We immediately reported it to DCS, engaged our outside investigator, the former FBI agent, who evaluated it as well, and that information that he came forward, we took to the review board within a week of the initial report coming forward,” Musacchio said.

The review board recommended the Diocese of Nashville report the allegations to Franklin police, and members advised the priest accused should remain on restricted duty, according to Musacchio.

“It’s important to pay attention to allegations and reports that come forward and investigate them properly in a manner that respects the due process rights of everybody involved,” Musacchio said.

Susan Vance, leader of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests in Tennessee, or SNAP, has seen countless sexual abuse cases in the church over her nearly 22 years as an advocate, with victims as young as babies.

“Institutions in which someone has some kind of authority, that happens, especially in churches where the person in authority is felt to be a representative of God himself, this gives an inordinate amount of power, and all sexual abuse, whether it be of children or adults, is about abusive power,” Vance said.

The Diocese of Nashville conducts annual background checks on clergy members and others with direct contact with children, according to officials, but Vance believes even that isn’t enough to protect children in the church.

Vance told News 2, many victims are too afraid to report sexual abuse because they’re worried their parents may get mad at them, or that they won’t be believed. She reiterated the importance of reporting sexual abuse to law enforcement, not the church, in an effort to prevent others from becoming victims in the future.

“If you report your abuse, if you follow procedures, if you go, you are helping somebody else and not just yourself,” Vance said. “If you go and tell what happened, then others will be helped, you will be helped, and this kind of abuse which is so rampant can be stopped. Otherwise, we are just setting ourselves up for a cycle of abuse after abuse after abuse.”

The Franklin Police Department plans to turn over its investigation to the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office for further review, according to the Diocese of Nashville.

If you know anything about the alleged abuse, call Detective Andrea Clark with the Franklin Police Department at (615) 476-2809.