Lawsuit: Diocese Hid Abuse by Priest
Allegations about the Rev. James Janssen Are 'Totally Improper,' the Davenport Catholic Diocese Says
By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register [Davenport IA]
January 28, 2004
The 11th sexual-miscon- duct lawsuit in 13 months was filed Tuesday against the Davenport Catholic Diocese, this one alleging the church tried to hide information about a priest's abuse of boys.
A former Fort Madison altar boy identified as John Doe VI filed the lawsuit in Scott County against the diocese and the Rev. James Janssen. The lawsuit says diocese files show that Janssen's 1953 leave of absence was a result of complaints about his sexual contacts with boys.
The lawsuit also alleges that the information was kept in"secret archives" located "downstairs at the chancery and inside a locked combination safe." The files allegedly were not readily available to all diocesan authority figures.
The diocese replied that the new allegations "are totally improper under court rules."
The petition"states allegations in a sensational manner, apparently calculated to generate publicity," said David Montgomery, spokesman for the diocese. "Many allegations in the petition are false, incorrect and take previous informational responses by the diocese in other cases totally out of context."
The lawsuit says that even though the diocese received complaints about Janssen over 50 years, it continues to"support, endorse, sanction, defend, aid, encourage and countenance" the priest and has refused to discipline Janssen "for his inappropriate contact with minor children."
John Doe VI alleges that the sexual abuse began in 1961, when he was younger than 14 and a member of St. Joseph Parish in Fort Madison. He alleges that the priest took him and other boys to coin shows, department stores and grocery stores, where he encouraged them to shoplift, and to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, where he took them to strip shows.
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