On Dec. 14, Deacon Ron Deal of Holy Family Catholic Church in Brentwood confirmed his removal to News Channel 5 Nashville. Deal's pastor, Fr. Joe McMahon, instructed him in a Nov. 30 letter not to minister at the parish until he resolves his "public disagreement" with the Nashville diocese.
The letter indicates that Bp. J. Mark Spalding of Nashville supports McMahon's decision. According to The Tennessean, Deal is a permanent deacon with the diocese and has served at Holy Family since 2010. He is also a licensed attorney.
The list of names of clergy accused of sexual abuse was released on Nov. 2, the Associated Press reporting that the list includes priests serving in the diocese from the 1940s to the 1990s.
Rick Musacchio, spokesman for the diocese, noted that the list of names was disclosed voluntarily. He also said that the diocese had recently contacted the Tennessee state attorney general, Davidson County district attorney and local U.S. district attorney's offices to say that it is willing to cooperate with investigations.
Deal, however, believes that issues in the process of releasing the names merit an external review, namely, a number of names are missing from an earlier version of the list that the diocese circulated internally.
When the list of 13 names was later published, some priests' assignments were not listed, and one priest was listed as deceased — despite still being alive.
By the time the diocese issued a correction, three more names had to be added to the list. These priests were accused of committing abuse in other dioceses, with Nashville having no records of allegations against them in its files.
Deal began calling publicly for an independent investigation while the list was still being drafted. He interviewed with various media outlets, including News Channel 5, and appeared at a Nov. 9 press conference of the Tennessee chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
"What is most troubling to me is that despite the diocese's claims of transparency and accuracy, they still can't seem to get it right," Deal said at the SNAP press conference.
In addition to the media, Deal also contacted local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, urging them to investigate Tennessee's three Catholic dioceses, namely those of Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville.
"I believe in the Church," Deal told The Tennessean. "I want the Church to live up to the ideals that it asks of the rest of us. I just feel like it's still falling short and I don't see that it's changing."
Musacchio told The Tennessean that Deal is not suspended and will continue to receive his stipend. He indicated that Deal would be allowed to return to ministry on ending his criticism of the diocese.
"Father Joe [McMahon] explained that he did not think it was appropriate for a deacon to continue in ministry, to continue to exercise ministry, in his parish while at the same time carrying out a very public disagreement with the diocese, with the bishop," Musacchio said.
"The pastor has asked him to resolve the issue," Musacchio told the AP. "It's fair to say the public statements are tending to cause the confusion."
"My question to [the diocese] is how do you propose ending it?" Deal explained to the AP in an interview. "I would love to find a way to keep this issue front and center, but I'm not sure how we make that (resolution) happen if it doesn't involve speaking openly."
Church Militant reached out to Deacon Deal and Holy Family Church for comment but received no response as of press time.