Survivors group wants independent investigation into Catholic clergy abuse in Tennessee
by Amy McRary, Knoxville News SentinelPublished 5:33 p.m. ET Nov. 9, 2018 | Updated 7:54 p.m. ET Nov. 9, 2018
Tennessee or federal authorities should investigate allegations of Catholic "pedophile priests" in the state, a leader of a survivors organization said Friday.
Susan Vance, a former nun with Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), also called on Catholic authorities to support abolishing statutes of limitations on child sex abuse crimes.
Vance held a short news conference Friday in drizzling rain on the sidewalk outside the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville offices on Northshore Drive. A similar news conference was held an hour later in Nashville.
"We would ask the state attorney general to impanel a grand jury or the district attorneys to ask the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate the church files," Vance said. "An independent investigation is needed, whatever that may be."
Vance said authorities also should investigate what she called the church's systematic moving of accused priests. Some were moved out of Tennessee to assignments in states that included Kentucky and Georgia.
Vance's statements came a week after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville published the names of 13 former priests accused of sexually abusing minors and the Knoxville diocese added a 14th name.
Before 1988, when the Knoxville diocese was formed, East Tennessee was part of the Nashville diocese. Most of the cited priests were administered under the Nashville diocese.
Susan Vance of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, speaks to the media about alleged Catholic clergy abuse in Tennessee on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, outside the Chancery Office of the Diocese of Knoxville.
Some of the priests listed had served in Knoxville or East Tennessee. Among them is Franklin T. Richards, a former Knoxville Catholic High School principal. SNAP says Richards was at KCHS from 1982 to 1985.
According to news reports, Richards resigned from KCHS in 1985 after he was accused of abusing three male students. He went to Nashville, where he was dismissed from the priesthood in 1989. Richards was never charged; his last known address was in Florida.
Also on the list was William C. Casey, currently in prison for abusing an altar boy when he was a priest in the 1970s at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in Kingsport. Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika removed Casey from the priesthood in 2010 after receiving allegations of abuse that had happened before the diocese was formed.
SNAP records list Casey as pastor of Farragut's St. John Neumann after his time in Kingsport, from 1988 to 1997, and as pastor of Greeneville’s Notre Dame Church from 1998 to 1999.
Of the men listed by Nashville and Knoxville dioceses, nine are dead, two are in prison and three are alive. None are in active ministry.
"Their victims are not dead," Vance said. "There were children. They're still alive and living with this."SNAP wants more information
The clergy served from the 1940s to the 1990s in Tennessee Catholic parishes, schools and youth programs. On Friday, Vance said, lists aren't complete and Catholic officials should do more to release information to the public.
The Nashville diocese listed the priests’ Tennessee assignments but didn't include when the men served at different parishes. It also didn't say when or where the alleged abuse happened.
SNAP wants Catholic officials in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis to cross-reference records to release names of "all abusive priests" and where and when they served. Vance said Stika has refused such requests in the past.Knoxville diocese answers
The Knoxville diocese issued a strong response to SNAP's statements on Friday.
"While we respect and appreciate SNAP's advocacy role on behalf of anyone who has been abused by clergy, it is unfortunate that the claims made by Ms. Vance in this letter are baseless," diocese spokesman Jim Wogan wrote.
Since the diocese wasn't created until 1988, it has no information of what happened when the area was under the leadership of the Diocese of Nashville, Wogan said. "They maintain sole possession of, and responsibility for, those records and those activities.
"In the past the Diocese of Knoxville has proven its willingness to meet with any people who feel they have been a victim of clergy abuse, and to act on those allegations," Wogan said. "We will continue to do so. Should Ms. Vance know of any abuse victims, we urge her to contact the appropriate civil authorities.
"The Diocese of Knoxville urges anyone who feels they have been a victim to contact the appropriate civil authorities and to also contact our victims’ assistance coordinator for ministerial help," Wogan said.Names linked to East Tennessee
The other priests with Knoxville ties who were listed by Catholic authorities Nov. 2 are:
- James William Murphy Jr., ordained in 1948. Murphy died Oct. 11, 2016. Primarily a priest in Memphis, Murphy was pastor of Alcoa’s Our Lady of Fatima. SNAP says he was at Alcoa in 1967-68.
- James Arthur Rudisill, who retired in 1995 after 44 years as a priest. Rudisill died in 2008 and primarily was a priest in Middle Tennessee. Diocese records show he was pastor at Greeneville’s Notre Dame Church and its Rogersville mission while East Tennessee was part of the Nashville diocese.
- Edward Albert Walenga, who was ordained in 1953 and died in 1983. His assignments included assistant pastor at Knoxville’s Holy Ghost Church, Greeneville’s Notre Dame and St. Henry Mission in Rogersville. SNAP said he was at Holy Ghost in 1955.
- William Floyd Davis, who was ordained in 1956, died in 2011. His assignments included pastor at Greeneville’s Notre Dame Church and its Rogersville mission. SNAP says Davis was in East Tennessee in 1967-68.
- Paul Wiley St. Charles was ordained in 1966 and dismissed as a priest in 2004 from the Memphis diocese. He died Dec. 27, 2009. He served at several Memphis locations. He was assistant pastor at Knoxville’s Sacred Heart Church; SNAP says that was in 1967.
- Edward Joseph McKeown, ordained in 1970 and dismissed from priesthood March 1, 1989. He’s in prison after pleading guilty in 1999 to raping a teenage boy when he was no longer a priest. Records show his assignments included administrator of Blessed Sacrament Church in Harriman and St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Lenoir City and as pastor of St. Thomas Church in Lenoir City. SNAP says McKeown was at Harriman in 1977 and at the Lenoir City churches from 1978 to 1986.
- Steven LaPrad, ordained by the Knoxville diocese in 1995 and dismissed as a priest in 2011. The Knoxville diocese added LaPrad’s name last week after the Nashville diocese released its list. LaPrad was parochial vicar of St. Mary Church in Johnson City from 1995 to 1999, parochial administrator of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Lenoir City in 1999-2000 and pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle from 2000 to 2002. He died in 2014.
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SNAP's list of accused priests in Tennessee included ex-priest Walter Emala. The Catholic Diocese in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, listed Emala as one of 70 of its clergy accused of sexually abusing or having inappropriate contact with children.
Emala, who died in 2008 in Baltimore, also was a Tennessee priest. The York Daily Record cites Memphis Catholic diocese files indicating abuse allegations against Emala dating to the 1960s. SNAP cites additional records that Emala was at Knoxville's Holy Ghost Church in 1956 and 1957.
Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding last week decided to release the names — many of which local media have already reported — in response to this summer's damning Pennsylvania grand jury report. The Pennsylvania report found allegations of widespread clergy sex abuse and cover-up in six of that state's dioceses.
Last week, in response to the lists, the Diocese of Knoxville said it does not have any current credible accusations or active investigations of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy in the diocese.