SNAP of Tennessee

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - Tennessee 

Mike Hitch and David Hitch in Knoxville

Group wants alleged abusive priests' names released

Alcoa, Blount County (WVLT) - A Tennessee organization wants Catholic Church leaders to make public the names of priests found to have sexually abused children.

Our Blount County Bureau Chief Stephen McLamb has more on what these people are asking.

Knoxville Diocese officials say they've identified one priest but will not release his name because like the victims, they say, he, too has rights.

Members of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or "SNAP," were outside Alcoa's Lady of Fatima Church with a man who says he was abused during the mid and late 1960's by a priest assigned then to the Blount County area.

"There has to be other victims, other people who haven't come forward, haven't reached out for the help they want or need, thinking maybe they're still alone," says Mike Hitch, who says he was allegedly abused by priest.

Ironically, his brother, a priest, didn't find out until three years ago.

"I was in the seminary studying, or preparing to become a priest, at the same time our parish priest was doing this to my brother," says Father David Hitch, alleged victim's brother.

SNAP officials echo worldwide claims that the abuse has been widespread.

"The Diocese knows they're there.  The Diocese knows where they are but, in fact, they do not tell the people," says Ann Brentwood, Co-Director, SNAP.

Officials with Knoxville's Diocese admit they've identified a priest in the past and say he is no longer acting in priest's capacity.

"Who is that priest?" asks McLamb.

"Well, the Diocese does not speak about specific personnel just because of the civil rights of people," replies Father Vann Johnston, Diocese spokesman.

But the church and the priest have not broken all ties.

"He is receiving basic assistance, living expenses to assist him," explains Fr. Johnston.

SNAP officials say they also want the church to cross reference the names of priests in other Diocese and look into their past.

"We represent the victims.  You see 124 of them over there on that chain.  The victims want the names," argues Brentwood.

Diocese spokesman Father Vann Johnston says the church is taking extensive steps to protect children including background checks, even for employees and volunteers.

He says before any priest can go to another diocese the bishop must sign off that he has a clean background.

Meanwhile, SNAP officials say that civil charges have been filed in Memphis against the former Blount County priest.

We're not naming the priest in this report because he has not been criminally charged.