Diocese Faces New Sex Allegations
Memphis Priest Accused of Molesting Girl in Confessional

By James Dowd
Commercial Appeal [Memphis TN]
November 15, 2006,2845,MCA_25340_5144153,00.html

New allegations of clergy sex abuse have been leveled against the Catholic Diocese of Memphis, stemming from claims that in the late '90s a local priest molested a teenage girl in the confession room of Blessed Sacrament Church.

In a suit filed in Circuit Court Monday, the plaintiff, listed simply as Jane Doe No. 3, alleged multiple counts of sexual abuse by Father Joseph Nguyen between 1997 and 1999. The Vietnamese-American woman who lives in Memphis claimed the abuse began after she underwent counseling from the priest following the death of her younger brother in 1996.

According to the suit, Nguyen sexually assaulted the girl on dozens of occasions during visits to her home and at the church, where he was supposed to be hearing her confession.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $10 million.

This is the third time in two months that Nguyen has been accused of sexual abuse. In a suit filed Sept. 14, a 23-year-old woman listed as Jane Doe now living in California claimed Nguyen molested her between 1994 and 1999.

In a suit filed Sept. 28, a woman listed as Jane Doe No. 2 now living in Florida alleged that Nguyen molested her from 1997-1999, when she was 12 to 14 and living in Memphis.

Before the first suit, Nguyen served as chaplain at St. Peter Villa. He had also served at several local parishes, including Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Germantown, St. Ann in Bartlett and St. Paul the Apostle in Memphis, and managed ministries within the Vietnamese Catholic community.

Nguyen was removed from his duties pending an investigation by the diocesan review board. He remains in the diocese at an undisclosed location. He is not involved in any ministries and has no contact with children or any parishioners.

"The diocese takes these and any allegations of abuse seriously and we encourage victims to come forward," said Father John Geaney, diocesan spokesman. "We're concerned about victims and we're committed to the safety and well-being of our children and all parishioners."

The diocese has not made any financial settlements in other cases, Geaney said, but has paid at least $10,000 for counseling services.

But some don't believe enough has been done.

"The diocese has not been straightforward and that makes it harder for victims to come forward," said David Brown, coordinator of the local chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). "Anyone who's been abused should contact us before they consider going to the diocese alone. We'll stand with them."

For information or to report abuse, contact the diocese at 359-2027 or Brown at 569-4500.

James Dowd: 529-2737


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