Yesterday in my hometown, the Bishop held a press conference. There was an allegation of sexual abuse from years past that just came to light. No doubt the recent events in our Church are giving some victims the courage to speak out about the harm that unfortunately came to them from the most unexpected of places.
What follows are the opening comments of Bishop Richard F. Stika’s announcement to the press. If you have the time (27 minutes approx.) please listen to Bishop Stika as he fields questions from the local press corps. He very candidly and openly discusses the problem of sexual abuse and how these cases are being handled. If anything, his remarks are an example of the beatitudes in action, justice coupled with mercy woven through and through with Christian charity.
Bishop Stika calls this crime exactly what it is, an abomination. The priest in question is being relieved of all duties, stripped of his vestments and the title of Father. He will no longer wear the collar. He will be accountable to the civil authorites and like us all, to God. And he states that the paramount concern is for the victim. A letter asking others to come forward if they were victims too will be read at every Mass this Sunday in our diocese. I’ll be preparing to answer my childrens questions on the matter.
Webster once wrote a post Because There Are Good Fathers. Indeed there are, and they are legion. I’m proud that this Father is my Bishop. But enough of my feeble words. Actions are stronger than words as St. Francis of Assisi proclaimed long ago: preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary. This is one of those times. Bishop Stika, you have the floor.
I want to thank you all for being here this morning.
Last week when I spoke to the media about the topic of clergy sexual abuse, I was not aware of a credible allegation against any priest in the Diocese of Knoxville.
Knowing how difficult it is for a victim of sexual abuse to come forward, I want to personally thank Mr. Warren Tucker for his courage in bringing this allegation to our attention [on April 14]. I know that SNAP has been working with Mr. Tucker and I appreciate their assistance.
Yesterday morning Mr. Tucker spoke with our Chancellor, Deacon Sean Smith, and a member of our Diocesan Review Board. Mr. Tucker has accused Father Bill Casey, a retired priest of the Diocese of Knoxville, of sexually abusing him while Father Casey was pastor of St. Dominic Church in Kingsport between 1975 and 1980. At that time St. Dominic Church was a part of the Diocese of Nashville.
Following Deacon Smith’s meeting with Mr. Tucker, we immediately adhered to the process outlined in our Policy and Procedure Relating to Sexual Misconduct. This policy is available on our website. I have also spoken with Bishop David Choby in the Diocese of Nashville since this occurred when East Tennessee was part of the Diocese of Nashville.
Last night I met with Father Bill Casey, and he admitted that there is credibility to Mr. Tucker’s statement. Father Casey is ashamed of his actions and truly saddened by the harm he has caused Mr. Tucker, his family, the Church, and its faithful.
Prior to Deacon Smith’s meeting with Mr. Tucker yesterday morning, we had no knowledge of Mr. Tucker’s experiences, and Mr. Tucker can verify that fact. At this time we have still not been notified by McDowell County, N.C., authorities that an investigation has been initiated.
As Bishop of the Catholic Church of East Tennessee, I want to apologize to Mr. Tucker, his family and to anyone else who may have been harmed by Father Casey.
I am sending a letter to all of our parishes to inform the parishioners of these allegations. I will ask that the letters be read aloud at Mass this weekend and inviting any others who may have been harmed to come forward.
Our first concern is for Mr. Tucker, his family, and anyone else who may have been harmed by Father Casey. We want to help him in his healing process in any way we can.
I want to assure you that Father Casey has been removed from ministry and will never again function as a priest in the Catholic Church.