Diocese Won't Comment on Third-party Investigation Bid
By Ken Little
December 12, 2018
The Diocese of Knoxville has no plans to investigate any allegations of sexual abuse by priests committed within the diocese after 1988, a spokesman said.
The diocese, which includes Greene County, also declined to respond to a request for an investigation by an independent third party of any allegations of sexual misconduct by priests. The request was made by a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests group, known by the acronym SNAP.
“Should there be a third party investigation begun to get to the whole truth? Survivors and their advocates unanimously promote this as the next step in getting to the truth in Tennessee,” East Tennessee SNAP advocate Susan Vance recently said.
In November, the Diocese of Nashville released a list of 13 alleged pedophile priests and former priests.
Nine of the 13 priests and former priests are dead. Two others are in prison. None are in active ministry, the Diocese of Nashville said in a news release.
All of the alleged sexual abuse was committed before 1988, when the area currently covered by the Diocese of Knoxville was included in the Diocese of Nashville.
Four of the pastors on the list served at Notre Dame Catholic Church.
One is former priest and Greene County resident William Casey, who was found guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of aggravated rape in 2011 by a Sullivan County Criminal Court jury. Casey is currently serving a 35-year state prison sentence. His conviction is on appeal.
The other three priests are deceased. They are Monsignor William Floyd Davis, who died in 2011; Father James Arthur Rudisill, who died in 2008; and Father Edward Albert Walenga, who died in 1983.
Information obtained from Notre Dame Catholic Church through the Diocese of Knoxville shows that the four pastors all served at the Greeneville church before 1988.
“I don’t anticipate additional priests’ names being released by the Diocese of Knoxville. We have fully and faithfully released the names of those priests we are aware of,” diocese spokesman Jim Wogan said last week in an email response to questions.
“We have always urged anyone who believes that they have been abused to report their experience to civil authorities, including law enforcement. This goes for current and past allegations,” Wogan said.
‘SECRET’ FILES ALLEGED
Vance doesn’t believe that diocesan officials have been completely forthcoming.
“We know they are looking in their secret canonical files for the names of pedophile clergy, so just do it all at once,” she recently said. “We sent them a list of six more names and they released two of them. We have more names but hope the diocese can get its act together and do what they say they are trying to do and be transparent.”
Vance said SNAP believes that church officials are reluctant to release the names of other pedophiles in the Catholic clergy.
“The list is larger than anyone thinks, and complete honesty about this would be devastating to the Diocese of Nashville. Add in the Diocese of Memphis and Diocese of Knoxville, and the people would be horrified to know what those secret files actually say about what our children and teens across Tennessee have endured,” Vance said.
Wogan declined to comment on Vance’s call for an independent third-party investigation, including for the years after 1988.
A news release by the Diocese of Knoxville after recent news conferences held by SNAP in Knoxville and Nashville stated allegations made by Vance and other SNAP members are “baseless.”
Wogan said after the list of pedophile priests was released that the Diocese of Knoxville was not created until 1988, so all church records regarding priests were kept by the Diocese of Nashville, which oversaw East Tennessee parishes until 20 years ago.
The disclosure by the Diocese of Nashville is “part of its ongoing commitment to transparency, accountability, and pastoral care,” a news release by the Nashville diocese said.
Vance has maintained that no Catholic diocese is qualified to police itself in investigative matters regarding priests.
She said that personnel or “secret archive files” of the three Tennessee Catholic dioceses should be turned over to the state Attorney General’s office, local district attorneys general and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
4 FORMER PASTORS
Davis was a pastor at Notre Dame Church in Greeneville between 1966 and 1968. Walenga was pastor in 1968 and 1969, Rudisill was pastor during part of 1971 and Casey served as pastor at the Greeneville church between 1972 and 1976.
All four priests had other assignments throughout the state during the course of their careers. Vance said the actions of the church indicate an ongoing practice of evading justice by transferring pedophile priests to other parishes.
“Sometimes priests were transferred across the entire state, which in the days when everything was one huge diocese of Nashville was often done,” she said.
Casey, who turns 85 on Jan. 4, was convicted of sex abuse charges stemming from conduct that occurred in 1979 and 1980, while the victim attended a school associated with St. Dominic Catholic Church in Kingsport. Casey was a priest at the church and the victim was an altar boy.
Casey, who lived for many years in the Camp Creek community, was sentenced in November 2011 to a 35-year prison term. He won’t be eligible for parole consideration until 2025 when he is 91, according to the state Department of Correction.
Another trial remains a possibility for Casey based on an opinion filed in May by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals at Knoxville.
Casey has a post-conviction hearing scheduled on March 15, 2019, in Sullivan County Criminal Court. Judge James F. Goodwin recently granted a continuation of the hearing until the March date so 2nd Judicial District Attorney General Barry Staubus Jr. and Casey’s 2011 trial defense lawyers could review a brief filed in support of a new trial submitted by his current defense lawyer, Francis “Frank” Santore Jr.