Former Sunday School Director Indicted on Rape Charges

A Catholic Sunday school teacher in Tennessee has been indicted on numerous charges related to child sexual abuse that occurred between 2013 and 2017. We applaud the brave young victim in this case for coming forward and reporting Michael Lewis, helping to ensure that other children are not hurt.

The charges against Lewis in Murfreesboro stem from his time as a Sunday school director within the Diocese of Nashville. Given that abusers rarely have one victim and that Lewis worked at multiple parishes within the diocese, we call on Catholic officials in Nashville to use all the resources at their disposal to share this information with parishioners and the public and to encourage anyone else who may have been hurt by Lewis to come forward and make a report to police and prosecutors.

According to SNAP’s internal tracking, this case represents the seventh arrest of a Catholic staffer this year alone and helps to dispel the notion that the Church’s sex abuse scandal is a thing of the past. Just last month, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released their own report that showed that allegations against clergy tripled in 2019 and that there were at least 37 cases of active clerics abusing children. It is clear that, despite rhetoric to the contrary, abuse remains a significant issue within the Catholic Church.

The simple fact is that the only way change will ever happen is through a truly independent and secular investigation that has complete access to all files and records, free of diocesan meddling or review. This is what happened with Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania in 2018 and it is what is desperately needed in Tennessee today. We call on the Tennessee legislature to immediately begin looking into a bill that will give the Attorney General Herbert Slatery the power to conduct such an investigation, and we call on A.G. Slatery to publicly push for this clearly-needed change and create a hotline in his office allowing victims of clergy abuse to make confidential reports of abuse.

Institutions cannot police themselves and if we truly want children in Tennessee to be safer and to prevent future cases of abuse, we need our elected officials to take immediate action. We hope that this story will encourage others who have been hurt by clergy or church staffers to come forward to local police and prosecutors, make a report, and help prevent future cases of child sexual abuse from occurring.

CONTACT: Susan Vance, SNAP Tennessee (Susan8324@gmail.com, 865-748-3518), Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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