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Nashville Catholic Diocese names priests accused of sexually abusing minors

Nashville Catholic Diocese names priests accused of sexually abusing minors
Posted at 2:42 PM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 19:47:51-04

The Catholic Diocese of Nashville has released the names of 13 former priests who have been "credibly accused" of sexually abusing children.

The Diocese reviewed records dating back to the 1950s.

The decision to release the list comes as other states are investigating whether church leaders covered up abuse.

Most of the priests named by the Nashville Diocese have been publicly accused in the past. But in some cases, this is the first time the diocese has acknowledged a credible accusation of sex with a child.

Nine of the 13 priests named are dead. Two are in prison, and the other two were long ago removed from the priesthood.

Bishop J. Mark Spalding said the diocese began compiling the list shortly after a grand jury report in Pennsylvania detailed how church leaders covered up sexual abuse by priests dating back decades.

Spalding has led the Nashville Diocese for less than a year.

"We want it all out there right now. Let's see this. We want to be accountable for it," Bishop Spalding said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "How confident are you this is a complete list?"

"I am as confident as I can be," Spalding answered. "It does us no good to keep any name back. The more we can be transparent, the more we can accountable, the better off I am, the diocese is and our church is."

The diocese published the names in its newspaper, the Tennessee Register.

On the list is former priest and principal at Father Ryan High School Ronald W. Dickman (born July 13, 1944).

It is the first time the diocese has acknowledged that he was "credibly accused" of abusing children.

He ran the high school for 10 years before resigning in 1987.

The diocese forced him out of the priesthood in 1991. Previously, the church had said that Dickman's misconduct only involved an adult -- despite reports about him abusing students.

Dickman is still alive and has not been charged with a crime. He has denied abusing students.

It also appears to be first time the Nashville Diocese has acknowledged accusations of child abuse against Father James William Murphy (born Sept. 12, 1922).

When he died in 2016, the Memphis Diocese said in Murphy's obituary that he was the oldest priest in Tennessee.

Despite public reports about abusing boys, he was never charged or removed from the priesthood.

The Nashville Diocese also said it has spent $6.5 million since 2002 on pastoral care and counseling for victims. That includes a $1.1 million settlement of one lawsuit.

The diocese said insurance helped cover that amount.

The list also includes priests who were already prosecuted for abuse like Edward Joseph McKeown.

He pleaded guilty to raping and fondling a 12-year-old boy in 1999. 

But prosecutors said he abused at least 30 other children here in Nashville.

Donna Harper's son was one that McKeown abused.

"There's no way to keep from thinking, 'why didn't I protect my child?'" Harper said. "In an instant I became the worst mother in the world."

Harper said records show McKeown had been accused of abuse before, so the church sent him to a therapist who said to keep him away from children.

"He was allowed to say Mass. He was allowed to hear confessions, and then later went to these youth activities," Harper remembered.

Bishop Spalding acknowledged the details of how the church handled past abusers are "gut wrenching."

"This should not have happened. The way they handled it back then is not the way we handle it now," Spalding said.

He continued, "I'm sorry. I apologize. This should never have happened and we are working to make sure it never happens again."

Despite what happened to her son, Donna Harper did not leave the Catholic Church.

"There's nothing wrong with the church's theology. The problem is the people inside the church and whether we can or can't trust them," Harper said.

Harper even agreed to be part of a diocesan review board that examines complaints of child sexual abuse.

It helped come up with the list of priests the church released.

"The church in Nashville is being very proactive in light of what they have faced and what other dioceses are facing," Harper said.

Bishop Spalding said that, since 2002, priests are removed from ministry after just one credible complaint of sexual abuse.

"Hopefully in time people will see the Roman Catholic Church, when you send your children to their parishes, when you send your children to their schools, those children are safe," Spalding said.

The Diocese said it shared files with the District Attorney in 2000, and in the last month has told the Tennessee Attorney General and Nashville's District Attorney that they may examine any files they would like to see.

Here is the full list of accused former priests as it appeared in the Tennessee Register:

Father Edward James Cleary. Born April 18, 1914; ordained May 18, 1940; died Nov. 10, 1997.

His assignments included: Assistant Pastor of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville; Assistant Pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Memphis; Assistant Pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Nashville; Professor at Father Ryan High School in Nashville; Administrator Pro Tem at Resurrection Church in Cleveland, Tennessee; Chaplain, U.S. Army Air Corps; Pastor, St. Paul Church in Whitehaven.

Father James William Murphy Jr. Born Sept. 12, 1922; ordained April 3, incardinated into Diocese of Memphis 1971; died Oct. 11, 2016.

His assignments included: Assistant Pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Memphis; Assistant Pastor of St. Thomas Church in Memphis; Director of the Ladies of Charity for the West Tennessee Deanery; Blessed Sacrament Church in Harriman; St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Cookeville; Pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Union City; Administrator of St. John Vianney Church in Gallatin; Pastor of St. Anthony Church in Memphis; Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Alcoa and attached mission; Pastor of St. James Church in Memphis.

Father James Arthur Rudisill. Born May 16, 1926; ordained May 19, 1951; retired Feb. 10, 1995; died Feb. 8, 2008.

His assignments included: Assistant Pastor of St. Ann Church in Nashville; Assistant Pastor of Christ the King Church in Nashville; Assistant Pastor of Holy Name Church in Nashville; Chaplain of Scouting for Middle Tennessee; Chaplain of the Catholic Business Women’s League in Nashville; Assistant Pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Memphis; Youth Director for the West Tennessee Deanery; Pastor of Holy Angels Church in Dyersburg; Pastor at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro; Pastor at Notre Dame Church in Greeneville and its mission in Rogersville; Moderator of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women for the Chattanooga Deanery; Associate Pastor and Pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Chattanooga; Chaplain Knights of Columbus Council 610 in Chattanooga; Pastor at St. Catherine Church in Columbia; Dean of the Southwest Deanery; Pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Hohenwald, Christ the Redeemer Church in Centerville and St. Cecilia Church in Waynesboro.

Father Edward Albert Walenga. Born Nov. 2, 1926; ordained May 30, 1953; died Nov. 27, 1983.

His assignments included: Assistant Pastor of Little Flower Church in Memphis; Assistant Pastor at Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville and Professor at Knoxville Catholic High School; Assistant Pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Chattanooga and Chaplain to Newman Clubs; Pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Humboldt; Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus Council in Jackson; Pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Cookeville; Pastor of St. Patrick Church in McEwen and Dickson mission; pastor of Notre Dame Church in Greeneville and St. Henry Mission in Rogersville; Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Springfield and the St. Michael Mission in Cedar Hill; Pastor of St. John Vianney Church in Gallatin.

Father Roger R. Lott, a Benedictine Monk/Priest in Cullman Alabama; ordained in 1954; removed from duty and placed in a restricted setting by his order in 1996; died May 22, 2011.

In the 1950s, Father Lott was in residence at the Cathedral serving in the Diocese of Nashville while pursuing a degree at Peabody College in Nashville.

Msgr. William Floyd Davis. Born Aug. 17, 1929; ordained May 26, 1956; incardinated in the Diocese of Memphis 1972; died Oct. 26, 2011.

His assignments included: Assistant Pastor of Christ the King Church in Nashville; Administrator of the Church of the Assumption in Nashville; Pastor of the Church of the Assumption; Administrator of St. William Church in Millington; Assistant Pastor of St. Louis Church in Memphis and teacher at Catholic High School for Boys in Memphis; Pastor of Notre Dame Church in Greeneville and its Rogersville mission; Pastor of St. Patrick Church in McEwen and St. Christopher Church in Dickson.

Joseph L. Reilly. Born Dec. 16, 1928; ordained May 26, 1956; dismissed from the priesthood of the Diocese of Nashville 1965; died March 9, 1981.

His assignments included: the Cathedral of the Incarnation; Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Chattanooga, St. Michael Church in Memphis and St. Henry Church in Nashville.

Paul Frederick Haas. Born Dec. 14, 1933; ordained May 23, 1959; dismissed from the priesthood of the Diocese of Nashville May 24, 1977; died June 7, 1979.

His assignments included: Assistant Pastor of the Cathedral of the Incarnation; Assistant Pastor of St. Ann Church in Nashville and teaching at Father Ryan High School; Assistant Pastor of St. John Church in Memphis and teacher at Memphis Catholic High School for Boys; Assistant Pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Memphis. In addition to assignments in diocesan records, he is also known to have served at St. Jude Church and Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga and in the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky.

Paul Wiley St. Charles. Born June 23, 1939; ordained May 21, 1966; Incardinated into the Diocese of Memphis; dismissed from the priesthood of the Diocese of Memphis 2004; died Dec. 27, 2009.

His assignments included: Assistant Pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Knoxville; Assistant Pastor of St. John Church in Memphis; Chaplain for Scouting in the Memphis area; Moderator for the Ladies of Charity; Director of the Catholic Youth Office for the Memphis area and part-time professor of Catholic High School for Boys in Memphis.

William Claude Casey. Born Jan. 4, 1934; ordained May 2, 1969; incardinated in the Diocese of Knoxville Sept. 8, 1988; dismissed from the priesthood of the Diocese of Knoxville 2010; currently incarcerated.

His assignments included: Associate Pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Chattanooga; Pastor of Notre Dame Church in Greeneville; Diocesan Director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference; Pastor of St. Dominic Church in Kingsport; Dean and Episcopal Vicar of the Kingsport Deanery; Director of Vocations for the Kingsport Deanery; Pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Knoxville. 

Edward Joseph McKeown. Born March 18, 1944; ordained Jan. 31, 1970; dismissed from the priesthood of the Diocese of Nashville March 1, 1989; currently incarcerated.

His assignments included: Associate Pastor of St. Edward Church in Nashville and part-time professor at Father Ryan High School; Associate Pastor at Holy Rosary Church; Associate Pastor at St. Joseph Church in Madison; Administrator of Blessed Sacrament Church in Harriman, St. Ann Church in Deer Lodge and St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Lenoir City; academic duties at Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga; Administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in South Pittsburg, in residence at St. Augustine Church in Signal Mountain; Associate Pastor at St. Augustine Church in Signal Mountain; Administrator at St. Bridget Church in Dayton; Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Harriman and its mission; Pastor of St. Thomas Church in Lenoir City and St. Ann Church in Deer Lodge. 

Ronald W. Dickman. Born July 13, 1944; ordained June 5, 1971; dismissed from the priesthood of the Diocese of Nashville 1991.

His assignments included: Director of Camp Marymount; Associate Pastor of St. Edward Church and full-time professor and later principal at Father Ryan High School; Associate Director of Vocations for the Nashville Deanery; Diocesan Director of Vocations; Associate Pastor of St. Henry Church in Nashville; Associate Pastor of St. Ignatius of Antioch Church; Catholic Charities of Tennessee; St. Mary Villa in Nashville.

Franklin T. Richards. Born March 18, 1947; ordained Jan. 26, 1973; dismissed from the priesthood of the Diocese of Nashville March 1, 1989. His assignments included: Associate Pastor of Christ the King Church; Associate Pastor of St. Henry Church; Pastor of St. Patrick Church in Nashville; Principal of Knoxville Catholic High School; Pastor of the Seymour Catholic Community; Associate Pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksville.

NEXT WEEK: We'll talk to critics who question how the Catholic Church can investigate itself.