KNOXVILLE - The Vatican has removed William Casey from the Roman Catholic priesthood after his 2011 conviction in Tennessee in the sexual abuse of a teenage altar boy, church officials said Thursday.
Reaction from a spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was sharp.
"Why did it take so long?" asked Nancy Vance of the Knoxville chapter of SNAP on Thursday.
Vance said the Vatican was informed of charges against Casey on April 4, 2010. The bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville, the Most Rev. Richard F. Stika, removed Casey from clerical duties after he was charged, but he remained under church vows until Pope Benedict XVI laicized him in late 2012.
Casey served at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Chattanooga from 1969 to 1972. So far, no victims are known to have come forward from Chattanooga.
Vance said the delay is beyond her understanding.
"It's a dichotomy between what they say and what they do," she said, noting the church has said it would move more quickly to remove priests who abuse youth.
On Thursday, the Rev. David Boettner, a vicar general for the diocese, confirmed the papal action, returning Casey to laity.
"It was granted earlier last year," Boettner said.
He said the bishop made several attempts to contact Casey's accuser, Warren Tucker of Jeffersonville, Ind., to inform him and tried to arrange a meeting with Casey.
"We were unsuccessful," Boettner said, noting that Casey had declined a meeting with the bishop.
"This is really just the completion of the process," Boettner said. "Hopefully, this action can bring some healing to Mr. Tucker.
Tucker claimed Casey molested him when he was 13 and 14 years old and an altar boy at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in Kingsport, Tenn.
Casey was sentenced to 35-40 years in prison on his conviction in July 2011 in Sullivan County on charges of aggravated rape and criminal sexual misconduct. He was sentenced in November 2011.
His attorney filed a motion, claiming Casey's conviction was based on insufficient evidence and violated the statute of limitations.