Virginia & Tennessee

Mr. Tom Lee recently wrote an e-mail to all the priests of our diocese of Richmond, about the situation we face here. Tom made an interesting point in his e-mail: the late Bishop Carroll Dozier served for a time as a prison chaplain.

Carroll Dozier mural
mural of the founding Catholic bishop of Memphis, removed last September, thanks to Mr. Tom Lee’s efforts

You may remember, dear reader, that Carroll Dozier ministered as a priest of the Diocese of Richmond. Then he became the first Catholic bishop of Memphis, Tennessee.

When our diocese of Richmond last year released a list of priests ‘credibly accused’ of sexually abusing minors, Dozier’s name appeared on it. At the end of this past February, the Diocese of Memphis released a similar list, with the name of their founding bishop on it.

The Diocese of Memphis credits us with having provided the information about Dozier. The current bishop of Memphis insists that their records contain no information at all about the crimes of Carroll Dozier.

Information about the crimes of Carroll Dozier, however, certainly exists. Fairly copious information. The man victimized multiple young people. The diocese of Richmond paid at least two settlements, decades ago. (Dozier’s brother served as a lawyer for the diocese.)

So, with all due respect to both bishops involved in disclosing that Carroll Dozier “has credible accusations” against him–that is, the sitting bishops of Richmond and Memphis–a question arises. Why not actually give the public all the information available? And if only the Vatican has the information, why not publicly ask the Holy See to disclose it?

At least one victim of Dozier’s still lives. The Attorney General of Virginia has a substantial amount of information about Dozier’s crimes. Why not take responsibility as churchmen, now, for the outrageous cover-up perpetrated by your predecessors?

Why remain silent? It only exposes the Church to yet another catastrophic public-relations blow. That is: the blow that will inevitably come, whenever the information the Attorney General has about Dozier ultimately comes to light?

Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (John 3:21, which we read today at Holy Mass)

…Meanwhile, at the other end of Tennessee: Apparently, the Diocese of Knoxville violated the vaunted Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

According to Mr. Michael Boyd: a former bishop of Knoxville, along with the Vicar General, sexually abused Michael while he was in school. Mr. Boyd reported the abuse to the diocese in 2018. Getting nowhere, he proceeded to sue the diocese in 2019. Then the diocese’s lawyers tried to get Mr. Boyd to agree to a non-disclosure agreement.

The rules governing the Catholic Church in the United States clearly prohibit such agreements, unless the victim requests it. When Mr. Boyd’s lawyers pointed this out, the diocese changed it to a “non-disparaging agreement.” The victim thereby promises “not to make any disparaging remark” about the diocese.

Boyd agreed, apparently hoping for peace and quiet after the agreement got reached. But after the ink dried, the diocese turned around and disparaged Mr. Boyd. The bishop insisted that he “personally feels” that Mr. Boyd is not telling the truth.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests complained to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops about this rule violation. Mr. Tom Doyle, about whom we have talked before, wrote a memo supporting the complaint.

Mr. Doyle points out:

The non-disparaging clause is a poor attempt at intimidating the victim from discussing the abuse he suffered as well as the agreement he signed. It is clear that if he relates the facts of his case as well as the identity of the perpetrator that this is clearly not disparaging or slanderous toward the diocese.

Nonetheless, Doyle notes:

How the bishop and his attorneys would interpret the agreement is another matter. It is entirely possible that should Mr. Boyd make a statement, especially a public statement, that the bishop believes violates the agreement, Mr. Boyd could be drawn into further civil court action and thereby re-victimized.

Knoxville cathedral nave
Knoxville cathedral

Doyle goes on:

It is clear the bishop is trying to deny that the plaintiff’s claims are true, which is thinly covered re-victimization. The press release from the diocese insults and demeans Mr. Boyd. Mr. Boyd’s attorneys thought a mutual non-disparaging agreement would stop the diocese from doing this. It did not.

Doyle makes a solemn charge:

The on-going attempts by the USCCB and by individual bishops to create the impression that they sincerely care about and are concerned for the pastoral welfare of the many victims of sexual violence by clerics are trivialized by the actions of Bishop Stika and any other bishops who follow similar policies.

The SNAP complaint asks that the diocese of Knoxville not receive a letter from the bishops’ body that certifies compliance with the Dallas Charter.

If the office does certify Knoxville, Doyle argues, the certification “practice is not only meaningless but insulting not simply to victims but to the Catholic people who have been asked to trust that their bishops have turned a corner.”

…I asked Tom if the USCCB office that received the complaint in January had responded. Answer: they have not even acknowledged receipt of the complaint.