Three clergy members who served in Catholic churches in Cobb County in years past have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of a minor, according to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The three were among 15 priests, deacons, seminarians and other religious staff named Tuesday in a release by the diocese who are accused of sexual abuse within the archdiocese or elsewhere “in a spirit of transparency and the hope of continued healing for the survivors of abuse,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory wrote in a statement accompanying the list.
Tuesday’s release did not go into specific allegations against any of the named clergy, such as the number of incidents alleged, where they occurred or when, but says that the list covers the period from the establishment of the Diocese of Atlanta in 1956 — it became an archdiocese six years later — to the present.
Among the seven named priests was John Douglas Edwards, whose last listed place of service was St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Kennesaw from 1987 to 1989. Edwards also served in 13 other churches following his 1961 ordination, according to the archdiocese, which lists his year of death as 1997.
Two listed individuals who once belonged to other religious orders — those not serving as priests in the archdiocese — served at two other churches in Cobb. Kenneth Joseph Cassity, a seminarian with the Missionaries of Our Lady of LaSalette, served at the Catholic Church of St. Ann in Marietta, with the archdiocese listing his status as being convicted of crimes in 2003, while Clarence Biggers of the Society of Mary served as Saint Joseph Church in Marietta. Biggers died in 2009, according to the diocese.
Previous reports by the MDJ said Cassity pleaded guilty to two counts of child molestation in connection to incidents that happened between July 1999 and December 2000, when Cassity sexually assaulted two 14-year-old boys in the church's rectory while working as a youth minister. The position, according to an arrest warrant, gave him "supervisory and disciplinary authority.”
Cassity was arrested in Florida on May 9, 2002, after a complaint by one of the victim's family members led to a weeklong investigation by the Cobb County Crimes Against Children's Unit. At the time of his arrest, he was working in a youth program at a Catholic church in Lake Wales, Florida.
Cassity was sentenced to 10 years, three to serve in prison and seven on probation.
The list of 15 accused clergy released Tuesday had been prepared based on the recommendation of an Archdiocesan Review Board comprised of laypersons and not in the employ of the archdiocese, Gregory wrote.
“With the publication of this information, I also renew my apology for the damage that young lives have suffered and the profound sorrow and anger that our families have endured,” Gregory added.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta, of which Cobb is a part, encompasses the northern half of Georgia.
Victims of abuse by clergy, an employee or volunteer in the Archdiocese of Atlanta or those who know of any victims of abuse are asked to call local police and the Archdiocesan Abuse Reporting Line at 1-888-437-0764.