A lawsuit filed this week alleges the Catholic Diocese of Nashville and St. Rose of Lima Church failed to protect a child from a staff member’s sexual abuse.
The suit claims that concerns about sexual misconduct were raised to the bishop of the diocese, the pastor of St. Rose and other officials for years, but no meaningful action was taken.
The alleged perpetrator, Michael D. Lewis, was indicted in June 2020 on felony sex crime charges. He will be facing trial for those charges in February. Lewis had been the church’s director of religions education.
“The allegations in this lawsuit raise disturbing questions about the Diocese of Nashville’s commitment to protect children from being terrorized by its employees,” Patrick A. Thronson, who is representing the plaintiff, said in a press release. “As the complaint alleges, the Diocese received numerous eyewitness reports of Lewis’s flagrantly inappropriate conduct, yet knowingly failed to act. As a result, plaintiff suffered in silence as Lewis raped her for years at her own church.”
Rick Musacchio, the Catholic Diocese of Nashville’s spokesperson, declined to comment on the allegations while their attorneys are reviewing the complaint.
“As the legal process unfolds, we anticipate more information will be forthcoming,” Musacchio wrote in an email. “We encourage everyone who suspects that abuse is taking place to report it to civil authorities, and we pray for everyone involved in this matter.”
Ron Deal, a Catholic deacon from Nashville who has called for independent investigations of sex abuse allegations within the church, says systemic issues arise because abuse allegations are often investigated internally.
“This is not just isolated instances of a bad actor at a single parish,” Deal says. “This goes higher. This is the Diocese knowing about things, and not doing anything about it.”