Faces New Sex Abuse Lawsuit
By Todd Ruger
A new lawsuit filed against the Catholic Diocese of Davenport claims a former Bettendorf priest admitted molesting at least 12 boys during his career while meeting with church leaders in May 2002, more than 21 months before the diocese publicly sought to defrock him.
The lawsuit, filed by a man identified only as “Jack Doe,” claims the Rev. William Wiebler used his position as a priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf to sexually abuse him for two years during the 1970s. The lawsuit states that Doe’s father died when he was 5 years old and that the abuse occurred not long thereafter.
Doe’s mother had looked to Wiebler as a positive male role model, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Scott County District Court.
Wiebler did not deny those assertions of sexual misconduct at a May 2002 meeting between himself, Doe and three church officials, including Bishop William Franklin and Chancellor Irene Loftus, the lawsuit claims.
At the same meeting, the lawsuit states, Doe asked Wiebler how many other children he had molested and Wiebler answered 12.
“Chancellor Loftus and Bishop Franklin indicated they would contact (Doe) to discuss compensation and told (Doe), in regards to defendant (Wiebler’s) admission, ‘I think you know there’s no doubt from the look on our faces,’” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit does not say why those negotiations were unsuccessful, and attorneys for the plaintiff did not return telephone messages left Thursday by the Quad-City Times.
Diocese attorney Rand Wonio said the meeting occurred, although Wonio said he understood Wiebler “specifically denied abuse with Jack Doe, but admitted abuse with several others.”
The diocese has made numerous offers to mediate Jack Doe’s monetary demands, but his attorneys have not provided some necessary information regarding damages, Wonio added.
In February, the diocese released information about sex abuse by priests on the basis of an internal review of clergy personnel records dating back decades. That led Franklin to send paperwork to the Vatican requesting that Wiebler and four other priests be defrocked.
The diocese report stated that Wiebler had “admitted acts of abuse with several minors” and that the diocese had received allegations of sexual abuse by the retired priest during the 1970s and 1980s.
Also, the report stated that Wiebler left the diocese in 1985, retiring in 1991, and that Franklin issued “the strongest canonical action possible” in October 2002, which obliged Wiebler to continue a treatment program and avoid contact with minors.
Wiebler remains in a treatment facility in Missouri, the diocese said.
He could not be contacted Thursday by the Times. No defense attorney is
listed in either Scott County lawsuit alleging sexual abuse on his part.
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