Defrocked Priest Goes to Foster Parent Classes
By Todd Ruger
October 6, 2004
A former Davenport priest attended a training session for foster and adoptive
parents in Davenport on Saturday, weeks after he was removed from the
priesthood for allegations of sexual abuse of children.
Another diocese priest at the session reported that James Janssen —
who faced two suspensions for treatment in the 1950s and 10 sex abuse
lawsuits in two states since May 2003 — attended the training held
by the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association, or IFAPA, the Catholic
Diocese of Davenport said.
“Why James Janssen would be interested in that type of training
is beyond me, but it certainly isn’t a good thing as far as we’re
concerned,” diocese attorney Rand Wonio said Wednesday.
Janssen is not on state records as being a licensed foster parent, the
Iowa Department of Human Services, or DHS, said.
IFAPA executive director Lynhon Stout said Janssen was allowed to register
for the session because he was on a list of the organization’s members.
While no children attended the training session, such sessions usually
are reserved for parents who are already state-licensed foster or adoptive
“I would question why he even attended,” Stout said, adding
that IFAPA members can include supporters of the organization who pay
“Our records would have indicated he was a reverend,” Stout
said Wednesday after being informed of Janssen’s removal from the
priesthood due to sexual abuse allegations. “He is now deleted (from
the member list).”
Stout said she is not sure why or when Janssen was entered in their list
as a member, but she is investigating the transfer of names from old databases.
“That’s something we’re kind of looking at and trying
to figure out,” she said. “Sometimes it takes a problem to
figure out how the system is doing that.”
The Rev. David Brownfield of Grand Mound, Iowa, who has cared for children
as a licensed foster parent, attended the meeting and said the instructor
repeatedly referred to Janssen as “Reverend” while addressing
the class of about 12.
“I don’t think the trainer knew who he was,” Brownfield
said. “I think it shows the importance of our average citizen being
involved in reporting suspicious situations to the appropriate authority.”
Janssen, who was removed from the priesthood July 28 by Pope John Paul
II, has denied all sexual abuse allegations in court records. He could
not be reached for comment Wednesday by the QUAD-CITY TIMES.
Wonio said diocese Chancellor Irene Prior Loftus is looking into the situation
and contacting IFAPA.
“For (Janssen) to pass himself off as a priest would certainly seem
to fly in the face of the pope’s decision,” Wonio said Wednesday.
The class addressed issues faced by foster parents, from giving the parents
lists of items the children would need to parenting practices to use in
situations ranging from sexual acting out to picking their nose to overeating,
“It’s a rather boring workshop if you’re not a foster
parent,” he said.
The diocese can’t prevent Janssen from going to meetings, “nor
can we throw him in a jail or monastery,” Wonio said.
“The diocese’s hands are tied,” from having control
over Janssen, he said.
The executive director of a national sexual abuse support group, Survivors
Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said Janssen attending the
class shows that sexual abuse by priests is not ancient history.
“It suggests to me (Janssen) wants to be around kids, and especially
vulnerable kids such as foster kids,” David Clohessy said.
While it’s not illegal for him to attend the class and there were
no children there, “It’s still troublesome,” he said.
Brownfield — who presides over Masses at Sts. Philip and James in
Grand Mound — said lawmakers should find a way to track priests
who have been accused of sexual abuse.
“What if one of these priests moved to a totally different state,
how would someone know?” he said.
Craig Levien, the Davenport attorney representing men who accuse Janssen
of sexual abuse, said IFAPA “got fooled just like parents got fooled.”
Had the lawsuits not been filed and Bishop William Franklin not given
a February 2004 report of Janssen’s behavior, the former priest’s
actions wouldn’t have been publically known, Levien said.
“(Janssen) could have pursued the chance of becoming a foster parent,”
Todd Ruger can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or email@example.com.