Diocese of Nashville sat on accusations against child rapist; SNAP says parishioners should be angry

For immediate release: March 21, 2024

Once again, Catholic officials appear to have been caught endangering children. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), believes that the faithful should be concerned that such behavior apparently still continues despite the promises of 2002.

In February of 2022, Michael Lewis pleaded guilty to four counts of statutory rape for assaulting a student at St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Murfreesboro. The assaults began in 2014 when Lewis was the 36-year-old director of religious studies at the school and the girl, “Jane Doe,” was a 13-year-old eighth grader. The abuse continued until the fall of 2016.  Lewis was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his crimes.

Disturbingly, documents recently unsealed in the lawsuit filed by Jane Doe against the Diocese of Nashville appear to show that the Diocese was warned as early as 2008 that Lewis posed a risk to young girls. SNAP thinks that prudent people should ask “If Nashville Catholic officials hid accusations against a layman in 2008, what information about abusive clergy might they be sitting on?”

Prior to St. Rose, Lewis worked at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Nashville as business manager and head catechist. The pastor there, Fr. Richard Cash, suggested to the Diocese in 2008 that Lewis should be suspended from his position and from teaching high school girls. This recommendation was overruled, and Fr. Cash wrote, “… [T]he Diocese of Nashville assumes the responsibilities of keeping Michael Lewis on the job while the investigation is underway, and I was ordered to do nothing and say nothing by the Bishop of Nashville.”

Consequently, officials at St. Rose were never made aware of the 2008 accusations. Specifically, that Fr. Cash had written to the Diocese accusing Lewis of an adulterous relationship with a 19-year-old woman for whom Lewis served as spiritual director. That relationship reportedly ended in Lewis procuring an abortion for the teenager, “Mandy Moe.” 

After Jane Doe made her criminal complaint against Lewis, she was made aware that the Diocese had received multiple letters about Lewis’s behavior with her from members of the St. Rose community. Lewis ultimately received a formal reprimand, but was still left in place as a teacher. Shortly after he was censored, he resigned. The Diocese also never reported the concerns about Lewis to law enforcement.

Our hearts ache for Jane Doe and Mandy Moe, who both received life-long injuries at the hands of this convicted child sex abuser. We applaud Fr. Cash and all the others who spoke up to try to protect girls in the Diocese of Nashville. However, we think this case illustrates that suspicions of child sexual abuse are best reported to the police or CPS, not to the Church.

We are absolutely appalled by the behavior of the Nashville Diocese. Mandy Moe could have understood years earlier that what happened was not her fault if Fr. Cash’s suggestions were followed and Lewis was fired. Jane Doe would never have suffered at Lewis’ hands if the man had been exposed and removed. We cannot imagine why Lewis was protected by Nashville officials. However, we strongly suspect that they would go even further to protect their clergy.

We hope that Nashville Catholics will speak out against unconscionable behavior by their Church officials. Children will continue to be hurt if people in the pews blindly accept this kind of behavior from their religious leaders.

CONTACT: Susan Vance, SNAP Tennessee(865-748-3518, [email protected]), David Brown, SNAP Tennessee (901-569-4500 [email protected]), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors President ([email protected], 814- 341-8386)


(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35+ years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

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