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SNAP of Tennessee

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - Tennessee 

Area Catholics weigh options to fight abuse

Area Catholics weigh options to fight abuse

by BRIAN LEWIS

July 24, 2002

New group says  pedophile priests should be named

A group of lay Catholics is considering giving the Nashville Diocese an ultimatum: Name all priests who have sexually abused minors or we will.

The prospect of such an ultimatum is one of a number of tentative recommendations that a committee on "healing survivors" made to the new local chapter of the Voice of the Faithful, a lay group that was formed in response to the national and local sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

The recommendation was part of a tentative report that will not be ratified, if at all, until after the group hears from Bishop Edward Kmiec at its next meeting.

Other Catholics around the country are calling for dioceses to release all records related to priests who abused children, said Mike Emerton, a spokesman for the national group.

"What people in general are calling for is a clean slate," Emerton said.

The Diocese of Milwaukee announced last month that it plans to release to the public a list of priests who sexually abused minors. Other dioceses have released lists to civil authorities but not to the public.

Cindy Gause-Vega, one of the leaders of the local chapter, said that the recommendations that various committees made at the group's recent meeting are works in progress.

"They really are ideas that are coming out of the initial committee meetings," said Gause-Vega.

The group does not have a constitution or bylaws and has not decided how recommendations will become resolutions, she said.

"Until we have an opportunity to meet with Bishop Kmiec, we're not ready to go to that step," said Gause-Vega.

Kmiec is open to speaking with the group, said his spokesman, Rick Musacchio.

Musacchio said that the bishop has apologized many times personally and publicly for abuse that happened here. The bishop will not name individual priests because of a diocesan policy not to release private personnel issues, Musacchio said.

He added that diocesan policy also states that anyone who has sexually abused a minor is not fit for ministry, and no one currently works for the diocese who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse. It's also the policy of the diocese to cooperate with any investigations by civil authorities, Musacchio said.

Two Nashville priests have been removed from the ministry because of sexual abuse. Franklin T. Richards and Edward J. McKeown were asked to leave the ministry March 1, 1989. Richards was not prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired. McKeown is serving 25 years in prison without parole for later raping a 12-year-old boy.

In a 1999 pastoral letter, Kmiec wrote to the people of the diocese of Nashville that a third former priest had been investigated, but the district attorney's office "found no evidence of criminal sexual activity."

Although diocesan officials say that no one working for the diocese has sexually abused children, some people said that the diocese has little credibility because of its past actions.

Mike Coode, a Nashville Catholic who works as a warrant officer for the Davidson County Sheriff's Department, said that he doesn't trust Kmiec. Coode said in 1997 he told Kmiec that he had been abused by a Benedictine priest when he was younger, and Coode said he felt that the bishop's response was misleading.

"Bishop Kmiec said that this might have happened in the old days but not now," Coode said. Because of more recent allegations of abuse involving McKeown and Richards, Coode felt that Kmiec was not being completely truthful.

Coode said that the committee that recommended that Kmiec name all priests who have abused children asked for the information not to be vindictive but "to help the healing process and to protect children now."