Retired Bishop Kmiec criticized for not removing accused priest in Nashville
By Jay Tokasz
February 4, 2019
|Former Buffalo Bishop Edward Kmiec served as Nashville’s bishop from 1992 to 2004.|
Photo by Derek Gee
Retired Buffalo Bishop Edward U. Kmiec is being criticized for his handling of a clergy sex abuse allegation during his time as bishop of the Nashville Diocese.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests of Tennessee said that Kmiec allowed the Rev. James A. Rudisill to retire as a priest in good standing and remain in ministry, despite the priest’s alleged admission in 1994 that he had molested a 12-year-old girl in the 1950s.
Kmiec was Nashville bishop from 1992 to 2004, and Buffalo bishop from 2004 until his retirement in 2012. He is now bishop emeritus of Buffalo and resides in the area.
A call to his residence was referred to Buffalo Diocese spokeswoman Kathy Spangler, who did not comment on the criticism of Kmiec.
The abuse is alleged to have happened in a closet of a Catholic school gymnasium in Nashville. The accuser is now 77 and lives in Kentucky, said Susan Vance, leader of SNAP Tennessee.
The woman wrote a brief summary of her experiences on a website maintained by SNAP, called HopeChronicles.org. She did not identify herself in the essay, in which she described meeting with Kmiec and the Nashville Diocese chancellor.
Kmiec told her in the 1994 meeting that Rudisill had admitted what he did, the woman wrote. She later met again with the chancellor and with Rudisill, who made the admission again and then asked her, "Why are you trying to ruin my reputation?" she said in the essay.
Kmiec subsequently did not report Rudisill to the authorities and did nothing to discipline the priest, said Vance.
U.S. Catholic bishops did not adopt until 2002 a policy that called for removal from ministry of any priests credibly accused of abusing a child. Prior to that, bishops routinely allowed accused priests to remain active and did not notify law enforcement authorities.
In Buffalo, Kmiec was among six bishops or auxiliary bishops who allowed the Rev. Brian M. Hatrick to remain in parishes for decades after a teenage boy complained Hatrick sexually abused him in the early 1980s. Kmiec, more than two years into his tenure, quietly removed Hatrick from priestly duties in 2007 without notifying the public of the accusation against him.
In Nashville, Rudisill retired in 1995 at age 68. It's not known whether he was forced to retired due to the abuse allegation. Rudisill died in 2008.
The Nashville Diocese in November identified Rudisill on a list of 13 priests who had been accused of child sexual abuse.
Vance said the list was “incomplete and wholly unsatisfactory.” The Nashville Diocese’s list included priest’s dates of birth and ordination, their assignment histories and their dates of dismissal and of death, if applicable. It does not spell out when abuse is alleged to have occurred.
A single credible abuse allegation was enough for the diocese to put a priest’s name on the list, said Nashville Diocese spokesman Rick Musacchio.
“We created the list from reviewing the files we have at the diocese,” said Musacchio. “We have encouraged anyone who knows of abuse to report it.”
The woman who accused Rudisill of abusing her said in her essay that the diocese identifying him as an abuser so long after the abuse was shocking.
“She called me in tears, saying, ‘How could they do this now, after all these years?’ ” said Vance, who said she has known the woman for 10 years.