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Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - Tennessee




Two Tennessee Catholic Dioceses Under Fire For Sexual Exploitation of Adults by Priests

For immediate release:
July 19, 2020  
Susan Vance

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP of Tennessee)

Allegations of priest misconduct are leveled against the Catholic Church in Tennessee

Catholic clergy who break mandatory celibacy laws face clergy abuse laws of the church.  

In Nashville, an adult student at Aquinas College is sexually exploited by Dominican Campus chaplain, Father Keith McGoldrick
In Knoxville a former Tennessee woman files a case (Docket C-20-017320) against the Diocese of Knoxville and Father Michael Sweeney
SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) responds to Tennessee cases.  

"Abuse of power is at the heart of the cases involving priests and adult women and men," says Susan Vance, SNAP leader in East Tennessee.  "There is never consent for sex when a priest, in his capacity as spiritual leader, has sex with a man or a woman.  This falls under the Catholic diocese's sex abuse policy and the bishop MUST act.  When a bishop does not follow policy, he is at odds with the Vatican.  This abuse is happening worldwide.  Tennessee is no exception."


A Nashville woman's story was published today in the Catholic Herald.  The mishandling of the case spans the Diocese of Nashville, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the home diocese of Father Kevin McGoldrick.  McGoldrick was chaplain of the Dominican Campus, run by the "Nashville Dominicans."  "Susanna," the sexually exploited woman was a student at Aquinas Junior College owned and staffed by the nuns.  The Dominican Campus has a grade school and an all-girl high school on the premises as well.  McGoldrick was chaplain for all three schools.  

"It is hard to believe that the Nashville Dominicans were told that McGoldrick had been reported for "Imprudent and unprofessional" behavior and they did not find out what that meant.  They have the care of hundreds of young people and they did not find out what he did -- either from McGoldrick himself or from the diocese?  This is gross malfeasance on the part of the nuns and the diocese of Nashville," states Vance.  

"The journey of this woman is complicated by the lack of responsibility, accountability and transparency of all the institutions involved," says Vance.  "This is common practice to muddle the truth and pass the buck to someone else.  From the account in the Catholic Herald, there is enough culpability to go around for the Diocese of Nashville, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the Nashville Dominicans."


A lawsuit is currently filed in the Circuit Court of Knoxville, Tennessee.  Celeste Arnone vs the Diocese of Knoxville and Father Michael Sweeney.  C-20-017320

Approximately 14 states have criminalized this kind of abuse of power when professionals in positions of authority engage in sex with clients or those under their direction.  This would apply to pastor and ministers of congregations and parishes as well as other professionals.  

"Much of this sexual exploitation of adult men and women comes under the guise of spiritual direction done in private," says Vance.  "Grooming for sex includes revealing intimate details of a priest's personal life.  The McGoldrick and Sweeney cases have stark parallels."  

"The worst nightmare for any diocese is for the public to find out that statistics show at any given time 50% of priests are engaged in sexual exploitation of an adult,"states Vance.  "There are going to be some very frightened priests across Tennessee when this dawns on the faithful in the pews.  Bishops are required by their own policies to take action against these priests. The question is "Will they obey their policies?"

For more information, call Susan Vance
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP of Tennessee