Group Wants Guilty Priests Fired
Diocese Official Says There's No Credible Evidence of Abuse

By Natalia Mielczarek
November 6, 2005

Citing continued lack of cooperation from the Diocese of Nashville in exposing priests accused of sexual abuse, members of a state organization that supports the victims urged church officials yesterday to reveal the perpetrators' names and remove them from the ranks.

A diocese spokesman countered the allegations, saying there are no priests credibly accused of sexual abuse serving in the diocese and that the diocese has developed an effective program to counsel victims and prevent abuse.

Standing at the corner of Elliston Place and 23rd Avenue -- former site of Father Ryan Catholic High School -- about 10 members of the Tennessee chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) demanded that the diocese stop shielding priests accused of sexual molestation -- a charge the church here has repeatedly denied.

"If more people know, more children may be saved," said Annette M. Alix of Lenoir City, Tenn., who drove almost three hours to tell the story of her adult son who she said was raped by a priest while he was a child.

"I want the church to take care of his therapy and his medication. In the end, it still doesn't excuse what they did. I want them to be held accountable."

Diocese spokesman Rick Musacchio said SNAP's allegations of covering up and underreporting abuse cases are not true. He said the diocese hasn't received a credible allegation of sexual abuse in about 20 years. "We do reach out to the victims," he said. "We encourage anyone to come forward and report abuse. The safe-environment efforts that we have taken in the Catholic Church are very strong."

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 during that period. About 4% of all American priests who served in those years -- 4,392 out of 109,694 -- were accused of abuse.

The Diocese of Nashville, which encompasses more than 50 churches and missions in the Midstate, reported 30 allegations of abuse in the study involvingseven priests who served during those years. Musacchio said releasing the names to the public could cause more harm than good, because many victims are troubled every time reports of abuse are publicized.

Before they made their statements yesterday, SNAP members unfolded long strings of cutout paper silhouettes, each with a name of a priest accused of sexual abuse and a name of a victim. Most victimswere John and Jane Does.
One was Kathleen Rankin.

"I've gone all this time thinking I was the only one. It destroyed me," said Rankin of Louisville, Ky., who said she was sexually molested in Nashville 50 years ago.

"I'm disappointed in the church because they gave me a feeling that they were going to do something about it, but they didn't." o

Natalia Mielczarek can be reached at 259-8079 or

Make your voice heard

If you want to weigh in on the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church, you can call:

o Diocese of Nashville, 383-6393

o The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest,

Former cases of priest abuse

In previous stories in The Tennessean, five local priests have been identified as abusers:

o Ron Dickman, former principal of Father Ryan High School. He left the priesthood in 1991 because of accusations of sexual contact with a son of a prominent Nashville Catholic family. In 2004, he was the director of Religious Community Services, an agency in Pinellas County, Fla., that helps the poor and homeless.

o Paul Frederick Haas, a teacher at Father Ryan High School who died in 1978. More than 100 people have accused him of sexual abuse, according to Mike Coode, a member of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

o Roger Lott, a Benedictine monk who in 2004 lived in seclusion at St.
Bernard's Abbey in Birmingham, Ala. According to published reports, Lott has never denied allegations of abuse but said he was an alcoholic and does not recall sexually abusing anyone.

o Edward J. McKeown was removed from active priesthood in 1989 after he admitted molesting several boys. He is serving a 25-year prison sentence for raping a 12-year-old boy after he left the priesthood. Two area men have filed a suit against the Diocese of Nashville, alleging that McKeown abused them between 1995 and 1999, when they were living in the same mobile home park as the former priest. The case is pending.

o Franklin T. Richards told police he abused about 25 boys. The statute of limitations had run out; Richardson lived in Palm Beach County, Fla., in 2004.

SOURCE: The Tennessean archives

Investigating accusations

The Diocese of Nashville has an advisory board that reviews accusations of sexual abuse by priests and determines whether the charges are true. The board includes a mental health professional, a victims advocate, a parent of a victim and a federal judge.

A priest found credibly accused of sexual molestation of a minor is permanently removed from the priesthood.

SOURCE: Diocese of Nashville


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville has not received a contemporary credible allegation of sexual abuse by priests in about 20 years, spokesman Rick Musacchio says. A story in yesterday's Tennessean omitted the reference to contemporary allegations from Musacchio's statement. The newspaper regrets the error.



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