Priest Resigns Following Sisters' Abuse Allegations

By Pam Kelley
Charlotte Observer [North Carolina]
November 2, 1997

Betsy Stone and her mother were arguing about child-rearing last year when she finally blurted out the secret she said she had been keeping.

"You failed to protect your children," she told her mother.

After that, her parents learned of allegations that their three daughters, until then, had kept among themselves. They say that a Catholic priest long considered a family friend had sexually or emotionally abused them during separate counseling incidents when they were teen-agers in Tallahassee, Fla., in the 1980s.

Once their parents knew of the allegations, the three sisters - Stone, a 31-year-old mother of two who lives in Huntersville; Gretchen Vossler, a 27-year-old who works for a communications company in Raleigh; and Veronica Bevans, a 33-year-old secretary at the auditor general's office in Tallahassee - decided to take their complaints about the priest, the Rev. David McCreanor, to the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

Finally, last week, after more than a year, they got results.

The diocese said that McCreanor, pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church in Tallahassee, had resigned from his parish and entered a church-run treatment center.

For Stone, the announcement was a great relief, she said Saturday. All along, she says their goal was to see that McCreanor was removed as a priest.

Neither McCreanor, 49, nor diocese officials could be reached Saturday.

But in an article in The Tallahassee Democrat on Friday, a diocese spokesman said McCreanor has resigned, although he has not admitted wrongdoing.

The diocese continues to investigate.

The most serious allegations come from Veronica Bevans, Stone's oldest sister. She says she went to McCreanor in 1981, distraught over losing her virginity during her senior year of high school only to have the priest lead her to his bedroom, undress her and have sex with her.

Stone went to McCreanor, known as "Father Dave," in 1983 at age 17 because she was upset that her parents didn't approve of her boyfriend. During one counseling session, Stone says McCreanor told her "he had been totally consumed by thoughts of me, thoughts of making love with me and that he couldn't look at me any more without having me, and that he wanted to be inside me."

She recalls sitting numbly through the rest of the session. She immediately told her mother, Mary Jane Vossler, she said, who told her she must have been imagining things. She says she also remembers other incidents that now seem clearly inappropriate - sexual innuendos and hugs that were too intimate.

Gretchen Vossler said her mother insisted she go to McCreanor in 1985, when she was 15. When he found out she was there because she had lost her virginity, she said he told her to describe the incident in detail.

"I was raised not to question what a priest said to you or did to you," Gretchen Vossler told The Tallahassee Democrat. "That's the amazement and dumbfoundedness that you feel when you are sitting there, and it is happening to you."

McCreanor's resignation came after Stone and her sisters told their story to The Tallahassee Democrat, which ran a front-page article on Friday.

Stone said she has long resented that McCreanor continued to act like a family friend - even participating in her wedding.

And she still resents her mother's failure to believe her back in 1983.

But making the allegations public, she said, is helping her move on. Her parents have been supportive, "and knowing what a difficult time this is and they're sharing it with us so completely is a big step in the healing process," she says. "It's very reassuring."

She also seconded the sentiments of her mother, who told The Tallahassee Democrat: "We think he should be removed from being a priest, because it's a reflection on the good men who work very hard as priests."


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