Controversy Dogs Nashville Abuse Allegation Response

News: US News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  July 24, 2020   

Critics question diocese's approach

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( - The Nashville, Tenn. diocese is defending its handling of a sex abuse allegation involving a cleric who is now seeking laicization.

Father Kevin McGoldrick, former chaplain at Aquinas College, is alleged to have sexually abused a female student — now an adult — at the Dominican-run school.

On Monday, the diocese issued a statement on the allegation: "The report by the adult woman (who wished to remain anonymous) of an incident that happened a year and a half earlier appeared to be neither a civil nor canonical crime."

Father Kevin McGoldrick is
an avid musician

Monday's response follows a report published by the Catholic Herald on July 17. According to the report, McGoldrick, a priest from the archdiocese of Philadelphia, has petitioned Pope Francis for dispensation from his obligations of Holy Orders. His request follows an archdiocesan investigation into sex abuse McGoldrick allegedly committed while working in Nashville.

The Herald also claimed it has documentation that corroborates the allegation and indicates that the diocese of Nashville never opened an investigation. The Herald further reported that Nashville did not respond to the alleged victim, who reported in March 2019 that McGoldrick assaulted her during an incident at the priest's residence in August 2017.

In its Monday response, Nashville asserted that the female victim's report was "significantly different than the description of sexual assault subsequently reported to others and contained in published media reports."

McGoldrick served as chaplain at Aquinas College where the alleged victim was a student. He also served at an elementary school and at an all-girls high school in Nashville from 20132019. All three schools are run by Nashville's Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.

The report by the adult woman (who wished to remain anonymous) of an incident that happened a year and a half earlier appeared to be neither a civil nor canonical crime.

The sisters also issued a statement on Monday indicating they received information from the diocese of Nashville in March 2019: "They (the diocese) had received a complaint from a woman accusing Fr. McGoldrick of what was described to us as imprudent and unprofessional behavior during an incident in August 2017. ... The information we received from the diocese of Nashville did not include any accusation of sexual assault."

After waiting months without hearing from Nashville, the victim reportedly issued a complaint in July 2019 to the archdiocese of Philadelphia, McGoldrick's home diocese. In January 2020, Philadelphia found the allegation credible and stripped McGoldrick of his priestly faculties.

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The accuser expressed concerns at the possibility of McGoldrick being granted voluntary laicization, writing that the Church would rather do that "than go through the trouble of holding an individual accountable for his crimes."

Philadelphia's finding that the allegation against McGoldrick was credible comes on the heels of a series of botched investigations into cases of clerical sex abuse that reportedly have been mishandled by U.S. dioceses in recent years.

Bp. Earl Boyea of Lansing, MI

In September 2018, Bp. Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan stripped Fr. Pat Egan of his faculties following an allegation of "inappropriate sexual behavior with an adult male." But the canonical censure came four years after Boyea first learned of the incident in 2014. Egan's victim wrote an open letter to Boyea in March 2019 calling for the bishop's resignation.

In December 2019, Buffalo, New York Bp. Richard Malone resigned following more than a year of intense scrutiny. In November 2018, a diocesan chancery employee leaked confidential documents related to Buffalo's mishandling of clerical sex abuse cases. The documents were widely reported to suggest Malone had covered up some claims of sexual abuse, an allegation the bishop denied.

The case in Nashville expanded to the civil courts in February 2020 when the accuser filed a police report and sued the diocese.

Nashville director of communications Rick Musacchio said the diocese entered into a settlement with the alleged victim "as a measure of pastoral care and healing." The Catholic Herald reported the diocese settled with the accuser in May for $65,000.

Any and all liability was specifically denied.

In its statement on Monday, Nashville clarified that a settlement does not impute guilt.

"The parties acknowledged the settlement agreement was not to be construed as an admission of validity of merits of any claim or allegation made by the person making the report. Any and all liability was specifically denied," explained the diocese.

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