NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A deacon who has questioned the thoroughness of a recently published list of Tennessee priests accused of sexual abuse has been removed from ministry at his local parish.
Nashville Deacon Ron Deal confirmed Friday he has been instructed not to minister at the Brentwood parish until his “public disagreement” with the Catholic Diocese of Nashville diocese is resolved. The Nov. 30 letter was sent from Deal’s church pastor, Father Joe McMahon.
Deal is one of the many victim advocates who have called for an independent investigation after the diocese earlier this year published the names of 13 priests accused of sexually abusing minors.
“My question to them is how do you propose ending it?” Deal said in a telephone 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.”
Diocese spokesman Rick Musacchio says Deal has not been suspended and he continues to receive a stipend, but says a resolution could be reached if Deal stops publicly criticizing the church.
“The pastor has asked him to resolve the issue,” Musacchio said in a telephone interview. “It’s fair to say the public statements are tending to cause the confusion.”
Deal was one of the speakers at a November press conference calling for an independent investigation and he has since asked state lawmakers to look into the issue.
The names released in November included priests who served from the 1940s to the 1990s. The list did not include information about when church leaders were made aware of the allegations or estimates of the total number of victims.
However, the quality of the diocese’s investigation was called into question by critics when the list was quickly amended after Deal and others pointed out names were missing when it was first shared. When it was eventually published, one of the priest’s names was listed as dead when he was really alive.
Deal says the church’s initial mistakes with releasing the list proves his calls for an independent investigation are warranted. To date, no law enforcement agency has done so in Tennessee, though Deal has maintained contact with the state’s attorney general, U.S. attorneys and district attorneys.
The investigation comes on the heels of a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania that concluded more than 1,000 children had been abused over a span of decades by about 300 priests. This has led for calls for more independent investigations across the country.
Musacchio says the Nashville diocese is ready to cooperate with any investigation, should one be launched.
“What does it say about transparency and openness when a deacon is removed for trying to assure that the whole truth is coming out from the diocese?” says Susan Vance, one of the leaders of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests of Tennessee. “We have many problems with the dioceses of Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis.”