7th Suit Filed against Diocese
A Clinton County Man Alleges in a Lawsuit He Was Sexually Abused by a Now-Retired Priest during the 1980s.
By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register [Davenport IA]
November 19, 2003
A seventh lawsuit was filed this week against the Davenport Catholic Diocese related to alleged sexual abuse by priests.
Donald Green of Clinton County said his lawsuit against the Rev. James Janssen and the Davenport Catholic Diocese isn't about money but about holding the church, the diocese and the priest accountable.
"Based on the response of the diocese to the other victims, I am convinced the only way to create positive change for my church is for the diocese to face legal action," Green said in a written statement. "It is my goal to make sure this type of cover-up does not continue. I want the children of our church to be protected and the needs of victims of sexual abuse by clergy to be addressed and met in a loving Christian manner."
The Davenport diocese Tuesday acknowledged the lawsuit and said it was reviewing the complaint.
"The diocese has worked cooperatively with this individual to provide pastoral and professional assistance to resolve problems that were alleged to have occurred over 20 years ago," said David Montgomery, diocese spokesman, in a written statement. "Additionally, at the request of Don Green, Bishop William E. Franklin has addressed the parish at Grand Mound."
Green, in his lawsuit, charges that Janssen used his stature as a priest to become a friend of his parents so he could spend time alone with him. He alleges that the priest sought and gained parental consent for Green to participate in counseling and other activities. Green's parents told him to respect the priest and comply with his instructions.
The abuse allegedly began in 1982, when Janssen was pastor at Saints Philip and James Catholic Church in Grand Mound and Green was a minor.
During the time when the molestation was taking place, the Davenport diocese either knew or should have known of the sexual abuse by Janssen, according to the lawsuit.
In his statement, Green said he came forward at this time to support and validate the other men who have filed lawsuits.
"Previously I did not fully understand the extent and depth of the problem," Green said. "I hoped I was alone in this situation."
In the other lawsuits, victims have alleged they were sexually abused by Janssen as early as 1953.
According to Green's lawsuit, Janssen took a leave of absence from August to December 1953. Janssen also was on leave from 1956 to 1958, after which he served as a substitute pastor at St. Michael Parish in Holbrook and as administrator at St. Patrick Catholic Church the same year, the suit said.
Green's lawsuit alleges abuse while Janssen was pastor at the Grand Mound parish, which was his final assignment as a priest. He was also a Boy Scout chaplain during the same time period - 1980 to 1990.
The diocese said in its statement that Janssen has been "fully retired" since 1990 and has no diocesan duties. One of the alleged victims, James N. Wells of Davenport, claimed he and his mother reported Janssen's sexual misconduct to another priest in 1990.
Two other lawsuits filed by victims have accused the diocese of moving Janssen from parish to parish without warning the new congregations or taking steps to protect the children. The diocese's ongoing denials of wrongdoing, Green said, caused him to pursue the lawsuit.
Davenport diocese lawsuits
Seven lawsuits have been filed against the Davenport Catholic Diocese this year. They include:
* A Hamilton, Ill., man sued the diocese in January alleging that the Rev. Martin Diamond, a priest at the Church of All Saints in Keokuk who is now deceased, sexually abused him in the late 1960s.
* A Clinton County man in July sued the Rev. James Janssen and the diocese, accusing the priest of molesting him when he was an altar boy in the Sugar Creek Parish in the 1960s. Also in July, a Burlington man sued Monsignor Drake Shafer, vicar general of the Davenport diocese, and the diocese. He alleged he was abused by Shafer when he was a member of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Fort Madison in 1972 and 1973.
* In September, James N. Wells of Davenport accused Janssen of years of abuse, beginning in 1953 when Wells was about 5 and continuing into the 1960s when the priest was assigned to a Fort Madison parish. Also that month, a Clinton County man who was an altar boy at Sugar Creek Parish in the 1960s sued Janssen and the Rev. Francis Bass, saying he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by both priests.
* In October, a Scott County man who was an altar boy at a Fort Madison parish in the 1960s sued Janssen, Bass, the Rev. Theodore Anthony Geerts and the diocese, alleging he was conditioned to comply with the priests' sexual demands and was sexually assaulted repeatedly. The lawsuit charged the diocese knew about the sexual misconduct but failed to take action against the priests.
* Donald J. Green of Clinton County filed a lawsuit this month against Janssen and the diocese, alleging that beginning in 1982 at Saints Philip and James Parish in Grand Mound, the priest molested him.
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