Former Aquinas student sues former Nashville priest, Philadelphia archdiocese over abuse

Tennessean [Nashville TN]

April 20, 2023

By Liam Adams

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Allegations of sexual abuse against former Aquinas College chaplain Kevin B. McGoldrick emerged in 2020 in news report.

Former Aquinas student recently sued McGoldrick and Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, expanding on previously reported revelations about McGoldrick’s case.

Lawsuit alleges Archdiocese of Philadelphia withheld knowledge from Diocese of Nashville of McGoldrick’s history of abuse before McGoldrick transferred to Nashville.

A former student at Nashville’s Aquinas College is suing the college’s former chaplain, Kevin B. McGoldrick, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for McGoldrick’s alleged sexual abuse of the former student.

The lawsuit expands on reporting by the London-based Catholic Herald in 2020 detailing the former Aquinas student’s allegations. The complaint, filed Monday in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, charges the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with negligence and recklessness for allegedly failing to report McGoldrick’s history of abuse when McGoldrick moved from Philadelphia to Nashville.

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The Philadelphia Archdiocese declined to comment on pending litigation. McGoldrick could not be reached for comment.

McGoldrick, who currently resides in Nashville, was a priest in Philadelphia from 2003-2013, according to the lawsuit. He then transferred to Nashville to work at Aquinas, working at both the college and at Overbrook School and St. Cecilia Academy, a Catholic K-6 and high schools that share a campus with Aquinas along West End Avenue.

In 2017, McGoldrick allegedly served Doe alcohol and sexually assaulted her, according to the lawsuit. She was a 22-year-old junior at Aquinas at the time.

Doe reported the alleged assault to Nashville police and the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, leading to a series of disputes between Doe and the Nashville diocese and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, which owns and operates Aquinas College. The Nashville diocese does not have authority over the Dominican Sisters, who were technically McGoldrick’s employer, Nashville diocese spokesperson Rick Musacchio said in a statement Wednesday.

In May 2020, Doe settled with the Nashville diocese for $65,000 after Doe’s attorney threatened to sue. The Nashville diocese denied any liability, saying it forwarded on Doe’s report to the Dominican Sisters, whose responsibility it was to investigate Doe’s report.

“The parties acknowledged the settlement agreement was not to be construed as an admission of validity or the merits of any claim or allegation made by the person making the report,” Musacchio said in a statement Wednesday about the diocese’s 2020 settlement with Doe. “Any and all liability was specifically denied.”

The Dominican Sisters apologized in 2020 for how it communicated to its campus about the report.

McGoldrick finished out his contract at Aquinas in 2019. The Nashville diocese has since stripped McGoldrick of his faculties and restricted him from serving in public ministry.

“A Nashville woman was sexually assaulted because the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Diocese of Nashville, and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia failed to protect her,” Susan Vance, who leads the Tennessee chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said in a statement Wednesday about Doe’s new lawsuit.

National SNAP leaders and Catholics4Change also issued statements on Doe’s suit.

Vance added in her statement, “This is blatant cover-up and wanton disregard for victims. SNAP denounces all parties who ignored McGoldrick’s sexual abuse history. We hope other victims will come forward for justice.”

New revelations

Doe’s suit includes previously revealed details from the Catholic Herald’s reporting in 2020, but also provides new details such as additional abuse allegations against McGoldrick and a timeline of when the Archdiocese of Philadelphia knew about McGoldrick’s history.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges the Philadelphia archdiocese launched an investigation into McGoldrick in 2013, the same year McGoldrick was transferred to Nashville. Even before opening an investigation, the complaint alleges the Philadelphia archdiocese knew of assault allegations against McGoldrick during his time as priest there.

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That archdiocese investigation was never made public and allegedly “never told the Diocese of Nashville about Defendant McGoldrick’s sexual assault of young females,” Doe’s complaint says.

In fact, the Philadelphia archdiocese wrote a letter to the Nashville diocese saying McGoldrick was “in good standing” when McGoldrick transferred to Nashville in 2013, according to Doe’s complaint.

Doe’s lawsuit also includes two, previously unreported cases against McGoldrick during his time in Philadelphia, one starting in 2007 and the other in 2012. Like Doe, the women in each of those cases are unnamed in the complaint.

The woman in both newly reported cases allege that McGoldrick engaged in behavior similar to Doe’s allegations, including grooming, and sexual harassment and advances. In one of those cases, McGoldrick also allegedly exposed himself and groped the victim.

The complaint says both cases were known to the Philadelphia archdiocese as early as 2013.

If the Philadelphia archdiocese passed along information about McGoldrick when he transferred to Nashville, it could have helped prevent abuse, the complaint states.

Also, the lawsuit said it could have helped Doe, who “would not have been caused to suffer damages related to her belief (based on Defendant Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s concealment) that she was alone in her abuse.”

Liam Adams covers religion for The Tennessean. Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @liamsadams.

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