Men [of God] at work in Tennessee


NASHVILLE - A $35 million lawsuit alleges that two dioceses and Nashville's city government failed to protect boys from a former priest's sexual abuse.

The suit charged that the Nashville and Knoxville dioceses and the city failed to protect a boy, now 16, who was molested and raped repeatedly by former priest Edward McKeown over a period of years

An attorney filed a second suit demanding another $35 million on behalf of another boy and his mother from the Nashville diocese and the city's government, and said there may be additional plaintiffs.

McKeown was sentenced to 25 years in jail without parole last year after confessing to molesting at least 20 minors. McKeown, first employed as a priest in Nashville in 1971, admitted committing acts of sexual battery and rape. The first suit said that in the mid-1980s, the diocese became aware of McKeown's sexual misbehavior and sent him to Conn. for treatment for 6 months after which he returned to Nashville.

But the suit alleged he continued to molest boys in both Nashville and Knoxville, where he served as a priest for a time, and was forced out of the priesthood only after giving a schoolboy a condom as a Christmas gift in 1989.

Also named as a defendant was Frank Richards, a former priest now living in Palm Beach, Flor. The suit alleged he failed to report McKeown's acts to the proper authorities.

In early 1990, McKeown worked at the juvenile court in Nashville, where fellow workers became aware of his past, the suit said. It alleged that city authorities failed to act on the information and permitted McKeown to work with juveniles and even gain custody of one boy whom he abused sexually.

According to court documents, police briefly investigated McKeown but dropped the matter. After the mother of the boy pushed for action, McKeown was arrested and confessed.

"In essence, then, the mother, armed with knowledge of sexual abuse by Mr. McKeown, took appropriate action which led to Mr. McKeown's arrest in less than 72 hours. The Diocese of Nashville, armed with similar information for over 13 years, never took such action," the lawsuit alleged.

Each suit asked for $8 million in compensatory damages for the boys and $2 million for their mothers plus $25 million in punitive damages.

Reuters, 1/20/00


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