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Church: We Acted Promptly

May 14, 2002 | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta told Cobb County authorities about sex abuse allegations against a former volunteer worker the day the issue was brought to their attention, the archdiocese lawyer said Monday.

The archdiocese won't comment about --- or doesn't know --- when St. Ann's Catholic Church first learned of the allegation. And officials at the church still won't say what they knew when they asked Kenneth Joseph Cassity to leave in December 2000.

Cassity was arrested Thursday in Lake Wales, Fla., on Cobb County warrants charging him with two felony counts of child molestation and four misdemeanor counts of sexual battery.

The warrants state that the incidents occurred between July 1999 and December 2000, raising a question about why action is just now being taken, almost two years later.

But David Brown, the lawyer for the archdiocese, said two families met with church officials on May 6 to make the allegations.

"That afternoon, my client notified [Cobb] DFCS [Department of Family and Children Services] of that information in writing, and the Cobb County sheriff of that information that afternoon in writing," Brown said. "The following morning, I personally notified the Cobb district attorney of this information and gave him all of the specifics."

Brown said he could not "comment on the substance of the discussion we had with these folks," and therefore could not answer whether they had raised the allegations earlier with priests at St. Ann's.

The Missionaries of La Salette, which staffs St. Ann's, described Cassity's stay at St. Ann's this way: Cassity was a "layman who was discerning a religious vocation while living at St. Ann's Parish. . . . Mr. Cassity was under consideration for possible acceptance into La Salette Congregation's novitiate program. He was not accepted into the program, and terminated his relationship with St. Ann's Parish and the La Salette Congregation in the late summer of 2000."

La Salette also expressed its regret over the situation.

"The Missionaries of La Salette are saddened by the charges against Mr. Cassity and express our sincere regrets to any persons who may haved been harmed by his conduct," a prepared statement read.

Neither the Rev. Robert Susann, the pastor at St. Ann's, nor the Rev. Raymond Cadran, a vicar at the church, returned phone calls Monday to address that question. An office worker at the church said no priests would be available to discuss the situation.

Cobb District Attorney Pat Head said his office is not formally investigating the time lapse involved, but said he is interested in whether there was any undue delay in bringing the charges forward. If so, he said, that would become part of the investigation into the charges against Cassity.

Cassity, 43, remained under police guard Monday at Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Florida, where he has been since suffering an apparent heart attack shortly after his arrest. Carrie Rodgers, a spokeswoman for the Polk County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office, said Cassity was in fair condition but still undergoing tests, and would remain at the hospital at least through Monday night.

She said she does not know when an extradition hearing might be scheduled.

Two Cobb County police detectives who went to Florida to question Cassity returned over the weekend with little information, said Cobb police spokesman Officer Dana Pierce.

Sgt. C.L. Dillard and Detective Mary Finlayson tried to ask Cassity about his relationship with the three male teenagers who were part of the Catholic Church of St. Ann's youth program and who are the alleged victims in the case.

But Cassity "lawyered up" and would not talk to the detectives, Pierce said.

Pierce said the two detectives recovered some evidence in a search of Cassity's vehicle, but he would not describe what they found.

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