Local priests ‘credibly accused of sexual misconduct’ with minors

0
1170
coat-of-arms-for-the-roman-catholic-diocese-of-memphis
Coat of arms for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Memphis.

By Carolyn Bahm

Two former Bartlett priests are among those “credibly accused of sexual misconduct involving minors,” according to a report released Friday by the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.
The list includes the late Rev. Walter Emala (1925-2008) and Joseph Thinh Duc Nguyen, both formerly of St. Ann Church in Bartlett.
See further down in this story for more information on these and other accused priests.
In a letter that accompanied the report, the Most Rev. David P. Talley wrote, “Our Diocese of Memphis realizes the extent of damage caused by the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by Catholic clergy. This realization has left us horrified. We are heartbroken and deeply saddened for the victims of these crimes and we have been scandalized to learn that some of those in authority ignored the cries from victims or minimized the damage.”
Talley was installed as bishop in Memphis in 2019.
His letter continued, “As the Bishop of Memphis, I promised to do everything in my power to safeguard our children and youth and to help those abused in the past.”
It’s important to note that the list is not a declaration of guilt. Instead, it’s the diocese’s best assessment of available evidence, Talley said.
The report also has some limitations:
It only includes allegations that are believed to be credible.
It only covers alleged sexual misconduct against children under the age of 18.
It lists where in west Tennessee each priest served but does not specify at which location(s) the allegations were made.
Talley’s letter concluded, “It is our continued hope that anyone who has been abused will come forward to speak the truth and seek the healing that all desire.”
How sexual allegations are evaluated
The report includes the findings made by the diocese’s nine-member Review Board since the board’s formation in 2003. The diocese was established in 1971. Before that, west Tennessee was part of the Diocese of Nashville.
Factors in the evaluation include how many people have accused the priest, the demeanor of the complainant and the priest, any potential motive for lying, mental illness that might explain false allegations, corroborating evidence or witnesses, whether the allegations were verifiably reported to a third party, and how much time elapsed between an alleged incident and when it was first reported.
Typically, the board employs professional investigators to interview the complainant, the accused priest and any available witnesses. Then there is a hearing at which the complainant and the accused priest are invited to attend separately and testify. Afterward, the board writes a detailed report of its findings and recommendations and sends them to the bishop.
The Review Board’s goal isn’t to judge the ultimate guilt or innocence of an accused priest. Instead, it conducts a preliminary process that advises the bishop. What follows next is a more rigorous canonical process designed to ensure an accused cleric isn’t wrongfully determined to have engaged in sexual misconduct.
Cases that the Review Board didn’t formally consider include allegations against most priests who are members of religious orders (such as Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits, to name a few) instead of priests of a diocese. The board also didn’t revisit cases that were determined to be credible before the formation of the board. And for the era before copy machines were available, original records were often transferred to a priest’s new location.
At Talley’s request, the report reflects a comprehensive review of all diocesan records by three different groups to ensure accuracy and completeness: A group of priests who are members of the College of Consultors, a group of laity from the Review Board, and an independent investigation firm (Inquisitor Inc.).
That review included allegations that are decades old, as well as a records review of priests without any complaints against them. Because information within the older records was sparse, the professional investigation tried to locate alleged victims referenced in the notes or obtain other helpful information.
The review covered more than 600 diocesan records pertaining to 338 priests and 104 deacons to ensure no credible information was overlooked.
Among the protocols the diocese uses to deal with abuse and to prevent it are policies, the Review Board, background checks, and VIRTUS training for priests, employees and volunteers.
Definitions
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Laicization, or dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state: The process by which a priest is returned to the status of a layperson. It is sometimes used as a penalty for a serious crime or scandal, but more often it comes at the request of the priest. A laicized priest is barred from all priestly ministry with one exception: He may give absolution to someone in immediate danger of death. The pope must approve all requests for laicization. When a priest is laicized without his consent — for a crime such as living in concubinage (an interpersonal and sexual relationship), committing child sexual abuse or using the confessional to solicit sex — it is sometimes called defrocking or unfrocking (terms that aren’t used in church law and should only be used for forcible laicizations).
Suspension: A penalty imposed for violation of a criminal law. It’s similar to dismissal from the clerical state, because the priest can’t function in public ministry; however, a suspended priest remains a member of the clergy.
Dismissal from the clerical state: A permanent penalty imposed because an ecclesiastical crime (one against canon law) has been committed.
According to the Diocese of Memphis in regard to the current report:
Sexual misconduct with minors: This is derived from state law and other sources and in general prohibits (among other things) all sexual contact, solicitation, lewd sexual behavior and conversations against minors under the age of 18.
Credible allegations per Diocese of Nashville
The Diocese of Nashville determined that there were credible allegations these priests (who served in west Tennessee in what is now the Diocese of Memphis) engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor:
The Rev. Edward James Cleary (deceased). Born in April 18, 1914, ordained in May 1940, accepted into the Diocese of Memphis in January 1971, and died on Nov. 10, 1997. His west Tennessee assignments include the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception at 1695 Central Ave. in Memphis and St. Paul Church at 1425 E. Shelby Drive in Memphis.
Monsignor William Floyd Davis (deceased). Born on Aug. 17, 1929, ordained in May 1956, accepted into the Diocese of Memphis in June 1971 and died on Oct. 26, 2011. His west Tennessee assignments include St. William Church at 4932 Easley Ave. in Millington, St. Louis Church at 203 S. White Station Road in Memphis, teaching at the former Catholic High School for Boys in Memphis, St. John Church at 2742 Lamar Ave. in Memphis, Blessed Sacrament Church at 2564 Hale Ave. in Memphis, St. Mary’s Church at 155 Market St. in Memphis, St. Mary’s Catholic Church at 2315 Pickwick St. in Savannah, and Our Lady of the Lake Mission at 10645 Highway 57 in Counce.
The Rev. Walter Emala (deceased). Born on June 14, 1925, ordained in May 1952, accepted into the Diocese of Memphis in January 1971 and died on Feb. 20, 2008. His west Tennessee assignments include St. Anne Church at 706 S. Highland St. in Memphis, serving as the west Tennessee area’s Scout chaplain, the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception at 1695 Central Ave. in Memphis and St. Ann Church at 6529 Stage Road in Bartlett.
Paul Frederick Haas (deceased). Born on Dec. 14, 1933, ordained in May 1959, dismissed from the priesthood on May 24, 1977, and died on June 7, 1979. His assignments in west Tennessee include St. John Church at 2742 Lamar Ave. in Memphis, teaching at the former Catholic High School for Boys in Memphis, and Sacred Heart Church at 1324 Jefferson Ave. in Memphis.
The Rev. James A. Kemper (deceased). Born on Feb. 7, 1915, ordained in March 1942 and died on Nov. 23, 1993. His assignments in west Tennessee include Holy Rosary Church at 4851 Park Ave. in Memphis and St. James Church at 4180 Leroy Ave. in Memphis.
The Rev. James William Murphy Jr. (deceased). Born on Sept. 12, 1922, ordained in April 1948, accepted into the Diocese of Memphis in January 1971 and died on Oct. 11, 2016. His assignments in West Tennessee include Sacred Heart Church at 1324 Jefferson Ave. in Memphis, St. Thomas Church at 560 E. Trigg Ave. in Memphis, serving as director for the Ladies of Charity for West Tennessee, Immaculate Conception Church at 1303 E. Reelfoot Ave. in Union City, St. Anthony of Padua Church (formerly located at the corner of Hill and Concord Streets, on land that is now a part of the St. Jude Hospital complex), and St. James Church at 4180 Leroy Ave. in Memphis.
Joseph L. Reilly. Born on Dec. 16, 1928, ordained in May 1956 and dismissed from the priesthood in 1965. His only west Tennessee assignment was at St. Michael Church at 3863 Summer Ave. in Memphis.
The Rev. James Arthur Rudisill (deceased). Born on May 16, 1926, ordained in May 1951 and died on Feb. 8, 2008. His assignments in west Tennessee include Sacred Heart Church at 1324 Jefferson Ave. in Memphis, serving as youth director for west Tennessee, and Holy Angels Church at 535 Tucker St. in Dyersburg.
The Rev. Paul Wiley St. Charles (deceased). Born on June 23, 1939, ordained in May 1966, accepted into the Diocese of Memphis in January 1971, suspended on Aug. 7, 2006, and died on Dec. 27, 2009. Allegations against him were also found credible in a separate investigation by the Memphis Review Board. His assignments in west Tennessee include St. John Church at 2742 Lamar Ave. in Memphis, serving as chaplain for Scouting in the Memphis area, directing the Catholic Youth Office in the Memphis area, teaching at the former Catholic High School in Memphis, and the Church of the Ascension at 3680 Ramill Road in Memphis.
The Rev. Paul Wiley St. Charles (deceased). Born on June 23, 1939, ordained in May 1966, accepted into the Diocese of Memphis in January 1971, suspended on Aug. 7, 2006, and died on Dec. 27, 2009. Allegations against him were also found credible in a separate investigation by the Memphis Review Board. His assignments in west Tennessee include St. John Church at 2742 Lamar Ave. in Memphis, serving as chaplain for Scouting in the Memphis area, directing the Catholic Youth Office in the Memphis area, teaching at the former Catholic High School in Memphis, and the Church of the Ascension at 3680 Ramill Road in Memphis.
Credible allegations before Review Board formed
Diocesan officials determined that these priests engaged in sexual misconduct involving minors before the formation of the Memphis Diocesan Review Board:
Credible allegations determined by Review Board
The Memphis Review Board held one or more formal hearings before determining that the following priests (In addition to the Rev. Paul St. Charles listed in Section 1) have credible allegations of sexual misconduct with one or more minors:
Credible archive references
After a review of the diocese’s records and employing a professional investigator, the Review Board determined that the following priests are deemed to have credible allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor:
For more information, visit the web page for the Catholic Diocese of Memphis’ Victim Assistance at https://cdom.org/victim-assistance.
According to current protocols for the Diocese of Memphis, when allegations are made against a living cleric, the police are notified and the diocese’s director of child and youth protection begins her service to the victim, and an assessor begins an investigation for the Review Board.
Minors who are victim of sexual abuse or people who know of such abuse are advised to call The Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-237-0004.
Those who need more information or help from the Diocese of Memphis can also call:
The diocese’s victim assistance coordinator at 901-652-4066
The diocese’s director of child and youth protection at 901-359-2027