Abuse Allegations Date to 1960s, Hit More Than Dozen Memphis Priests

By Lawrence Buser
Commercial Appeal
April 8, 2010

Sexual-abuse or sexual-misconduct allegations have been lodged against more than a dozen priests in the Memphis Catholic Diocese in the past four decades, either in lawsuits or recently unsealed court documents.

The most blatant offender was Rev. Daniel DuPree, whose victims included male minors and adults.

In a 1992 letter to church authorities, DuPree graphically detailed sexual activities he engaged in between 1985 and 1992 involving 14 different teenage boys or young men.

"These are all I can remember," wrote DuPree, who is no longer in the priesthood.

He then thanked church officials for promising to give him "positive" recommendations in his search for a new job in St. Louis.

In depositions taken in the case, Memphis Bishop J. Terry Steib said he knew of six to 10 allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese. The priests served at 42 parishes or social agencies in the diocese.

About a dozen lawsuits have been filed in Memphis in recent years alleging sexual abuse by priests, many going back to the 1970s. Nearly all have been settled out of court.

A suit was settled for $2 million last year in which a 14-year-old boy said Father Juan Carlos Duran, a Dominican priest, sexually abused him in 2000. Duran has left the priesthood and returned to Bolivia.

"Far more were reported and dealt with before litigation," says David Brown, a paralegal and Memphis coordinator for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "If they've got a pedophile priest they're taking care of, they need to let people know where they're living. These people don't quit."

In addition to Dupree and Duran, other priests or former priests named in depositions or accused of sexual misconduct in lawsuits include:

Father Richard Mickey: Accused of sexually abusing twin brothers Blain and Blair Chambers -- who identified themselves by name in a lawsuit -- in the 1980s when they were students at Bishop Byrne High School, where Mickey was a counselor. The 2004 suit, one of the first priest-abuse suits filed against the Memphis Diocese, settled out of court three years later. The diocese admitted no liability.

Mickey, who became a priest in 1988, also acknowledged having a relationship with a male student at Catholic High School that he allowed to become "too personal." Numerous letters, cards and love notes from Mickey to the student were entered in the record.

In 2006, Mickey resigned as pastor at St. Mary's Church in Jackson, Tenn., and underwent evaluation and treatment at a Maryland clinic. Steib reassigned Mickey to the Memphis Diocese archives in 2007 after he was determined to be a risk to minors.

Father Joseph Nguyen: Accused by three Vietnamese-American women of sexually abusing them from 1994 to 1999 when they were young girls. The alleged assaults occurred at various locations, including their homes and the confession room at Blessed Sacrament Church. The suits were settled in 2007 for more than $100,000 each, according to their attorney. The diocese admitted no liability but said Nguyen -- who managed ministries within the Vietnamese Catholic community -- is no longer involved in the ministry.

Father Paul St. Charles: Named in multiple suits involving more than a dozen accusers alleging sexual abuse of minors beginning in the 1970s, when he headed the Memphis Diocese Catholic Youth Organization. In one case, a "John Doe" alleged he was an eighth-grade altar boy at Our Lady of Sorrows when St. Charles sexually abused him in his car at a drive-in theater.

St. Charles retired in 1986, citing health problems. However, after suits were filed, he was suspended in 2004 from performing priestly duties after a diocesan review board found it "more likely than not" that he had abused a Memphis teenager in the 1970s.

St. Charles died in December in Nashville at age 70.

Father Gregory Salata: A 33-year-old woman said in a 2007 lawsuit that Salata raped her five years earlier when she went to him for counseling. The suit said the diocese had previous complaints of sexual misconduct by Salata but that it did nothing to protect her or other church members. The suit was settled out of court.

Father William Kantner: In recently unsealed court records, a 2002 letter was sent to Kantner from an emotionally distraught man -- identified in the records as "Anon 31" -- who said Kantner had sexually abused him as a teen for several years in the late 1970s. Msgr. Peter Buchignani investigated and determined the allegations to be credible.

Two years later, in 2004, Steib sent Mexican church officials a letter of good standing on behalf of Kantner, who was embarking on a church-related trip to Mexico. The bishop said later that writing the letter was a mistake and that he had put children at risk.

In a 2006 complaint, a former seminarian identified as "Anon 57" told Kanter in a letter that he endured "deep emotional pain" and fear because of Kantner's aggressive behavior and sexual advances years earlier. The letter writer said he was finally sharing the information with church leaders and asked for Kanter to express his remorse.

A Diocesan Review Board found the complaint inconclusive, but the complaint from "Anon 31" was likely valid. The board recommended Kantner undergo counseling for anger, alcohol and other issues. He was not removed from parish duties and still heads St. James Church.

Father Walter Emala: Church files indicate decades of sexual abuse allegations dating to the 1960s in the Nashville-Memphis and Baltimore dioceses. In 1967, Emala was accused of taking boys on trips and sleeping with them in the nude, and at other times taking boys to adult movies. He was also accused of child abuse in the Baltimore Archdiocese.

In 2004, Emala was accused of sexual misconduct with minors at his parish near Harrisburg, Pa., and was reported to the district attorney's office. He was warned to stay out of the Harrisburg diocese.

Emala died in 2008 in Baltimore.

Father Milton Guthrie: Accused of sexual abuse in a 2008 lawsuit filed by Norman Redwing, who said the abuse occurred in the 1970s when he was a youth. Unlike most other plaintiffs in sexual-abuse cases, Redwing identified himself by name in the lawsuit. The case is pending. Guthrie, a teacher, pastor, historian and civil rights advocate, died in 2002.


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