Report More Detailed
By Todd Ruger
Bishop William Franklin alluded to divine intervention when asked why the Catholic Diocese of Davenport decided to release on Ash Wednesday a report about sexual abuse allegations against diocese priests.
“In a certain sense, God said, ‘Why don’t you use Ash Wednesday?’ ” he said of the timing of the report, adding that it was circumstance and he had wanted to release it two weeks earlier.
But the timing and circumstances of the report, which detailed the diocese’s internal review of more than 50 years of priests’ personnel files, simultaneously offered both more and less of a response than that of neighboring dioceses to the national crisis facing the Catholic Church.
The scope of that crisis came to the forefront Friday, when a panel of prominent Roman Catholics rebuked U.S. bishops for failing to stop widespread clerical sex abuse over the past half-century, calling the leaders’ performance “shameful to the church.” The top American bishop pledged that the church’s mistakes will never be repeated.
The National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by the bishops, issued Friday two highly anticipated studies documenting the molestation problem from 1950 to 2002.
One report is the first church-sanctioned tally of abuse cases: It found there have been 10,667 abuse claims over those 52 years. About 4 percent of all American clerics who served during the years studied — 4,392 of the 109,694 priests and others under vows to the church — were accused of abuse.
Over the same time period, Franklin announced Wednesday that 65 allegations had been made against 20 priests in the Davenport Diocese since 1950 and that he will ask the Vatican to defrock five priests.
“This is a painful and difficult communication, but one that must occur in the interest of transparency and openness,” he said at Wednesday’s news conference.
From Many Sides
The diocese had felt pressure from several directions in recent months to release information on the extent of allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
Attorneys were demanding information from church records for 12 civil lawsuits filed against the diocese and priests since May 2003. At least one church council, in Grand Mound, formally questioned the diocese’s response to the accusations in those lawsuits.
In January, Franklin made a surprise visit to the Grand Mound church after hearing of its council’s concerns.
A report released in January showed the diocese was one of only 3 percent nationally not to respond to a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Other area dioceses had publicly released some of the information they submitted for that study.
Although the Davenport Diocese report came later than others, it included more details about allegations and accused priests than the John Jay study and what other dioceses had released.
For example, the Davenport Diocese gave out information on the number of priests accused, the number of people, the names of the five priests it wants defrocked and details of the accusations against them.
The Diocese of Peoria released only the number of priests who have been accused.
However, as part of Wednesday’s report, Franklin, who became bishop in 1993, apologized to any victims and announced he will send paperwork to the Vatican about defrocking five priests.
But Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria apologized to victims and asked at least seven priests to step down in May 2002 due to allegations of sexual abuse, just two months after his installation as the bishop there.
Jenky and the Peoria Diocese face a defamation lawsuit from one of those priests, Edward Bush, who continues to fight the allegations.
Franklin said he weighed the possibility of the diocese being sued by the five priests before making his decision to release their names.
Diocese attorney Rand Wonio said he is not concerned about that possibility.
Other Dioceses Reported
The report from the Catholic Diocese of Davenport includes much of the same information that would have been in a study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Wonio said.
Other area dioceses disclosed these results to the John Jay study:
The Archdiocese of Dubuque reported 67 allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against 26 of 973 priests who have served since before 1950 and spent $1,156,217 on settlements, counseling and other support.
The Diocese of Des Moines reported 30 allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against 11 of 335 priests since 1950 and spent $680,500 on settlements and counseling.
The Diocese of Peoria reported an unspecified number of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against 14 of 700 priests since 1950 and spent more than $900,000 in settlements.
(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)
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