Video: Church says retired priest admits sex abuse

5:27 PM, Apr 15, 2010   |    comments
  • Father Bill Casey: photo via Notre Dame church website
  • Bishop Richard Stika announces that a retired priest has admitted to allegations of sexual abuse
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Bishop Stika on sex abuse allegations

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. 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 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., 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 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.

The Knoxville Diocese of the Catholic Church said Thursday morning a retired priest admitted there is truth in the allegations of a former parishioner who said he was sexually abused by that priest.

Bishop Richard Stika held a press conference Thursday morning at which he said he traveled to Father Bill Casey's home in Greeneville Wednesday night.

Bishop Stika says he read Father Casey the allegations against him, included in a letter written by Warren Tucker who says the priest abused him in "every way imaginable".

"At the end of it I said, 'Is this true?' That's when he admitted to the fact of the abuse," Bishop Stika said.

According to Bishop Stika, Father Casey said he is ashamed and deeply saddened.

"I want to aplogize to Mr. Tucker." Bishop Richard Stika. "It's an abomination against God and it's not to be tolerated.

The abuse would've occurred when Father Casey, now 76, was in his forties, and when Mr. Tucker was an adolescent.

Staying silent for three decades is not surprising to many experts who specialize in child sexual abuse.

"They were way too frightened to tell when they were little," said Knoxville Child Advocacy Center Director Pamela Dickey. "The fear is just that you can't go up against something as powerful as a teacher, the church, a minister."

Father Bill Casey is no longer a priest, Bishop Richard Stika said Thursday morning--and Stika also said there may be other victims of sexual abuse by Casey, in addition to Mr. Tucker.

"He indicated there could potentially be other victims, early in his priesthood," Bishop Stika said.

The bishop did not specify the number of potential other victims or provide an estimate.

Casey has been suspended from Catholic ministry for life and can no longer function as a priest, or represent the church in any way.

Stika said he was sorry for what happened to victim Warren Tucker and said the diocese will do whatever it takes to restore Tucker's trust in the church.

"It's difficult for anyone who's been abused to trust and so we have to rebuild that trust," Bishop Stika sai. "So in my conversation with Mr. Tucker this afternoon I'll basically say what I said now. Whatever we can do to assist him in this healing process. He's an innocent victim of this. It should never have happened."

Tucker, 44, came forward with allegations Wednesday that Father Bill Casey had sexually abused him, saying he had "sexually abused (him) in every way imaginable from the time (he) was about 10 1/2 until (he) was nearly 15 years old."

Stika said Thursday that Casey admitted sexual abuse and said it had happened early in his priesthood, that he realized it was wrong, and he stopped.

Much of the abuse of Tucker happened in Kingsport. One incident is alleged to have happened in McDowell County, North Carolina. An investigation is underway there, based on a complaint filed by Tucker in September, which alleges that Casey took him to Little Switzerland, North Carolina, and sexually abused him.

When that report was filed in September, Casey was 68 years old. Casey now lives in Greene County.

Stika said he is sending a letter to all the parishes of the diocese, notifying them of the allegations and asking that any other potential victims come forward.

The letters will be read aloud during services this coming weekend.

Previous: Alleged victim in East TN priest abuse case talks

Wednesday, 44-year-old Warren Tucker shared a story he has kept a secret for nearly 34 years.

"I am a victim and survivor of childhood sexual abuse.  My abuser is a Catholic priest who remains active in the Knoxville Diocese," Tucker told 10 News.

The alleged victim breathed heavily and held in tears as he talked about the priest he said sexually abused him   For now, he calls that priest "Father X".

"Father X is a pedophile who sexually abused me in every way imaginable from the time I was about ten and a half until I was nearly 15 years old," Tucker explained.

Warren Tucker said he served as an alter boy at a Kingsport church in the 1970's where he met Father X.

He said Father X abused him in Kingsport and during trips the two took together to a rural farm in Greene County and while mining for gems in McDowell County, North Carolina.

Tucker said Father X is now a retired priest who lives in East Tennessee.  The victim and the SNAP organization, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest, alerted the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville.

"We met with Deacon Smith this morning [Wednesday] along with a nun from the review board.  They were very kind and understanding," Tucker added.

"They were Christian people to the core to the upmost caliber and I'm so proud of that," said Susan Vance, East Tennessee Coordinator of SNAP of Tennessee.

Tucker feels sharing his story will help him heal.

"I have suffered debilitating depression and the inability to trust any religious clergy or authority figures.  He stole my youth, my religion and deeply affected my ability to live a normal adult life," the victim said.

He hopes his story lets other sexual abuse victims know they're not alone.

Tucker has filed a police report in North Carolina.  He plans to do the same in Sullivan and Greene County.  So far, police have not charged the priest.

Previous: Church investigating allegations of sex abuse; retired priest suspended

A complaint of sexual abuse spanning from 1975 to 1980 by a now-retired priest has prompted the Diocese of Knoxville to launch an investigation and to suspend that man from his role as a retired priest.

A 44-year-old man, Warren Tucker, came forward with allegations of sexual abuse over a five-year period against a retired priest of the Diocese of Knoxville in East Tennessee.

At the time of the alleged abuses, that priest would have been under the Diocese of Nashville.

The Knoxville Diocese's chancellor, Deacon Sean Smith, said the first course of action under the church's sexual misconduct policy was to notify law enforcement officials.

Next, he notified Bishop Richard Stika and Nashville Bishop David R. Choby.

Stika will issue a decree beginning a diocesan investigation.

For now, the retired priest has been suspended from "priestly faculties," meaning he is not allowed to present himself as a priest, to wear priestly garb, or to serve as a priest in any capacity.

In a written statement, Smith said, "Our No. 1 goal and objective is first to assist the victim in any way we can and to ensure that all the children
in our care are protected."

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