The following answers frequently asked questions about the disclosure of names of clergy for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, substantiated or determined or considered to be credible in the Diocese of Memphis. For more information, see the bishop’s statement or Contact Us.
1. What if I or someone I know has been sexually abused by a priest, deacon or other personnel of the Church?
2. Why is this disclosure being made now?
A: With the release of the reports around the United States, people began to ask about the existence of such cases in the Diocese of Memphis. Bishop Talley believes people have the right to know, so he asked for a review of diocesan files of the priests who have served in Tennessee during the last 70 years, and he is now making the findings of this preliminary review public.
3. Why was this disclosure not made earlier?
4. How did the bishops of the Diocese of Memphis handle allegations received in the past?
A: All prior bishops acted decisively whenever allegations were received.
5. Who made the decision to publish this list?
A: The decision was made by Bishop Talley, after consultation with and recommendation by the Diocesan Review Board.
6. How was this list developed?
A: Bishop Talley asked for an internal investigation and review of all personnel files of clergy whom we already knew or whom we suspected had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse. That information was then shared with the Diocesan Review Board, which recommended its publication.
7. What additional investigative efforts is the diocese undertaking?
8. Will the attorney general’s office or other civil authorities be investigating?
A: The diocese has already reached out to the TN Attorney General and have expressed that we are always prepared to cooperate fully with any investigation requested.
9. Does this list contain all names of clergy who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse?
A: The list contains all the names of those clergy whom we have been able to identify to date. This is a preliminary list, based on our initial preliminary review and examination of files.
10. What help does the Diocese of Memphis provide to known victims?
11. In addition to (the above) what other steps does the diocese take when an allegation of abuse of a minor is received?
A: If there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused, law enforcement is notified first. The diocese cooperates fully with any law enforcement investigation. At the conclusion of any law enforcement investigation, or if no criminal investigation is possible, then the diocese conducts its own investigation, including the possible hiring of an independent investigator. The results of the investigation(s) are presented to the Diocesan Review Board for a determination of the credibility of the allegation and to make a recommendation to the bishop. The bishop arrives at a decision based upon the investigation and the board’s recommendation. If the allegation is determined to be credible, the accused is immediately removed from ministry. If the accused is a priest, the bishop then coordinates with the Vatican in conducting a full canonical trial — and if that trial substantiates the allegation, then he is placed on permanent prayer and penance or laicized in a process through the Vatican.
12. What does the term “determined to be credible” mean?
A: When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Church personnel is received, the first step is to determine whether the incident(s) could have taken place as described. For example, if an allegation is received that a particular priest abused a minor in a particular parish in a particular year — but that priest was not at that parish or was not in the country at that time or was not even ordained yet at that time — then this particular allegation could not be accurate. If, on the other hand, the incident(s) could have taken place as described, the diocese conducts an investigation as described above, and the review board (whose members act as independent advisors to the bishop) makes a recommendation as to whether the accusation is credible. In arriving at this recommendation, the review board takes into account a number of different factors, including but not limited to: whether there are other similar allegations; whether the allegation is first-hand (as opposed to second- or third-hand); whether there is any corroborating or supporting evidence on file or other testimony; the credibility of the complainant; and whether the accused has admitted guilt.
13. What does the term “considered to be credible” mean?
A: There are some allegations on this list that did not come to the diocese’s attention until after the priest had already died, sometimes many years after that priest died, thus limiting the diocese’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation and to give the priest an opportunity to respond. In such situations, a “determination” of credibility may not be possible. Nevertheless, in some cases the diocese considers some such allegations to be credible and has offered pastoral care and counseling to the victims, based on a number of different factors. Such factors include but are not limited to: whether there is corroborating or supporting information on file; whether the allegation is first-hand (as opposed to second- or third-hand); whether there is more than one such allegation with similar characteristics; and the credibility of the accusers.
14. What does “permanent prayer and penance” status mean?
A: A priest may be placed on permanent prayer and penance through a canonical process authorized by the Vatican. This status applies to a priest permanently removed from all public ministry while still remaining a priest. He is not permitted to administer sacraments, wear clerical attire or present himself publicly as a priest. He is asked to pray for healing and to do penance on behalf of those who have been abused. A priest in this category is regularly visited by a compliance monitor with professional expertise in monitoring of this type.
15. What does “laicized” mean?
A: A “laicized” priest or deacon has been removed from the clerical state and returned to the status of a layperson. He is no longer considered or treated as a priest or deacon. “Laicization” is a canonical process through the Vatican.
16. What is the definition of a minor for purposes of this list?
A: Anyone under the age of 18 at the time the abuse occurred.
17. Do clergy on this list receive financial support?
A: None of the clergy on this list receive any financial support from the diocese. However, even after a priest is laicized, depending on the circumstances the Vatican may require that the diocese help ensure that the priest’s basic necessities are provided for (e.g., health insurance or small retirement support).
18. How much has the diocese paid in settlements and victim support over the years, and where has that money come from?
A: As of the end of the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the diocese has paid X. The diocese plans to update the amounts paid in settlements at the end of each fiscal year.
19. What steps has the diocese taken to prevent sexual abuse of minors by church personnel?
A: The Diocese of Memphis has a Safe Environment Program with training, policies, and procedures designed to prevent and recognize signs of sexual abuse of minors. The diocese conducts criminal background checks of clergy, religious, employees and volunteers who have routine contact with minors. And these individuals are also required to undergo training to recognize and respond to potential signs of sexual abuse of minors. Finally, in all of our Catholic schools and parish religious education programs, minors are given age-appropriate education so they can know how to help create safe environments for themselves, and what they can do when they feel that a certain environment is not safe.