NY Catholic sex abuse lawsuit: former Nashville bishop part of 'racketeering enterprise'

By Anita Wadhwani
August 20, 2019

Most Reverend Edward U. Kmiec, left, Bishop of Nashville, speaks at the 9/11 service at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in 2002.
Photo by Stephanie Bruce

Former Nashville Catholic Bishop Edward Kmiec has been named in a sweeping lawsuit filed in New York by 22 plaintiffs alleging the Diocese of Buffalo systematically covered up sexual abuse of minors by pedophile priests.

Kmiec served as Bishop of the New York diocese between 2004 and 2012. He served as Bishop of the Diocese of Nashville between 1992 and 2004. He is now retired.

Kmiec is one of dozens of Catholic leaders and institutions named in a lawsuit filed last week in state court in Tonawanda, New York.

The lawsuit was filed under anti-racketeering laws — also known as RICO statutes — alleging a conspiracy of "harassing, threatening, extorting, and misleading victims of sexual abuse committed by priests” and of “misleading priests’ victims and the media to prevent reporting or disclosure of sexual misconduct." 

Kmiec is singled out for his role in transferring more than $90 million in assets to protect church holdings from victim claims, according to the lawsuit. 

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Buffalo did not respond to request for comment from Kmiec and the Diocese.

The plaintiffs filed anonymously. The lawsuit came on the first day of a one-time year-long window under New York state law to file civil suits alleging sexual abuse beyond the statute of limitations. 

The lawsuit claims the diocese engaged in a racketeering “enterprise” with "systematic linkage to each other participant through organizational ties, organizational relationships, financial ties, and the continuing coordination of their activities, through the Diocese of Buffalo."

Kmiec has faced criticism from victim advocates for his handling of accused priests during his tenure in Nashville, including public scrutiny over the diocese’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against a different priest.

Edward McKeown in 1999 pleaded guilty to abusing a 12-year-old boy in his neighborhood over a three-year period.

McKeown left the priesthood before Kmiec became Nashville’s bishop in 1992, but a lawsuit by two of his victims alleged the priest was allowed to teach youth classes, hear children’s confessions and participate in sleepovers with children.

In December, McKeown died in prison of natural causes while serving a 25-year sentence.

Earlier this year, the Diocese of Nashville released the names of 21 clergy connect to the diocese who had been accused of sexual misconduct. None were serving in active ministry at that time.



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