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Layman Criticizes Board
Former member says the clergy-abuse review panel of the Dubuque Archdiocese is too secretive

By Mary Nevans Pederson mnpederson@wcinet.com
Telegraph Herald [Dubuque, IA]
June 18, 2003

At their highly visible national meeting last year, America's Catholic bishops vowed to address the clergy-abuse crisis by including more lay people, and some abuse victims, on policy-making boards at all levels.

Monday, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, the lay leader of the national Catholic clergy-abuse review panel, quit because of what he saw as efforts to obstruct dealing with the clergy scandal.

Three weeks earlier, a member of the local clergy-abuse review board also quit, for many of the same reasons.

Melvin Loes, of East Dubuque, Ill., said he was tired of the "good 'ol boy" attitude of the members of the Dubuque Archdiocesan Review Board for Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergy and Other Church Personnel, now called the Review Board for the Protection of Minors. Loes was one of 13 board members appointed by Archbishop Jerome Hanus last year in response to requirements established at the bishops' meeting and approved by the pope. Loes had asked to be on the board.

"I object to the confidentiality. Our meetings aren't public and we couldn't talk about what went on. People who talk to me, especially victims, want to know," he told the TH this week. "To me, confidentiality means coverup."

In October, Loes had a different attitude when he spoke at an archdiocesan study day for clergy.

"I feel this board can help the people of our archdiocese regain respect for our clergy," he said as he asked church faithful to support "our good priests." He said he wanted to work with the board, "not out of revenge, but to see that the right thing is done."

Loes, 79, said he and other teenage boys were sexually abused by the Rev. John Patnode, an archdiocesan priest who was pastor at St. Joseph's Church in Key West from 1939 to 1951. Patnode was removed from that parish and transferred to the Sisters of Mercy Novitiate in Marion, Iowa. He died in 1977.

When Loes told his mother about the abuse, she didn't believe him, and he did not tell anyone else. He did not begin to find out about other victims until a distraught father in the parish came to him and said Patnode abused two of his sons.

The surviving men Loes knows who were Patnode's victims have mostly left the Catholic Church, and when he tendered his quit the review board, Loes did too.

"I've been a Catholic all my life, but now it's not my church," he said.

Kathy Loch Klein, chairwoman of the review board, said the board appreciated Loes' work and wishes him well. She disagreed with him about the need for confidentiality.

"Confidentiality is necessary for board discussion. We talk about personnel and very sensitive matters. It's important to protect both the accuser and the accused during the process," she said.

As for assessing allegations of sexual abuse, Klein said the board "will not allow information like that to get to the church and stop there," but will ensure that proper action is taken in all cases.

Loes said he felt support in his resignation when he heard about Keating's resignation from the national board.

"From what I've read, he had all the same ideas I had," Loes said.

Klein does not see a pattern in the two resignations. She said the board is "headed in the right direction."

Hanus also felt the two resignations were coincidental and not an indication of wide-spread lack of confidence in the ability of such boards to do their jobs.

"I am very satisfied with the work of the board. Mr. Loes made a good contribution to the board and I would be pleased to see him continue on it," Hanus said.

Archdiocesan records do not include any sexual abuse complaints against Patnode until last year, when Loes first spoke publicly about his experience, said Monsignor James Barta.

"There is nothing in our files to confirm or deny allegations against him, but we take Mr. Loes at his word," Barta said. Records only indicate when Patnode was transferred to different assignments without giving reasons why.

The Diocese of Rockford (Ill.) has a review board with 16 members and the review board of the Diocese of Madison (Wis.) has five members. There have been no resignations from either.


 
 

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