Local Victims Say Clergy Abuse Numbers Low

By Pat Kinney
Courier [Waterloo IA]
Downloaded February 27, 2004

WATERLOO --- Two Cedar Valley area victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church say a new church-commissioned study by an outside agency on the incidence of abuse nationwide severely underestimates the numbers of abusers and victims, and the extent to which church hierarchy ignored or covered up the crimes.

Both local victims spoke on condition of anonymity.

"To me, it doesn't matter if it's 11,000, 1,100, 11, or one," one victim said. "The real tragedy is that there were always priests who knew (of the abuse) and stood idly by and did nothing. The church from the deanery level, to the archdiocese, to Rome, knew this was a problem, and they did nothing. And for their silence, they should be ashamed."

"My response is that the numbers are still low," said a second victim. "The study's not clear, but I'm almost positive they're only counting the diocesan priests. They're not counting monks that have abused, they're not counting nuns that have abused. They're not counting the vulnerable adults, who in times of crisis have gone to a priest or nun who, because of their authority, took advantage of them."

Both local victims were abused about 40 years ago within the Archdiocese of Dubuque. One of the victims was abused in the Waterloo area; the other was abused outside the area but now lives within the Cedar Valley. Both have reported their incidents to archdiocesan authorities. Both believe they have been psychologically damaged by the incidents. One is still a practicing Catholic; the other, while still professing religious faith, is not.

"The accountability doesn't solely belong on the heads of the perpetrators," the first victim said. "The real confusion for the faithful in the Roman Catholic Church today is what was going on with the 96 percent of priests who knew and looked the other way."

Both local victims believe a full accountability, and full healing within the church, will not occur until all abusers are identified publicly.

"I don't understand why, with the four Iowa bishops, what's so hard about telling the truth, releasing the names of all priests and nuns involved in credible accusations, so that more victims can come forward and heal," the second victim said. "The church is always talking about healing. By releasing the names, where these perpetrators have served, you'll find more victims coming forward."

There were four priests in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area about whom the Archdiocese of Dubuque has received complaints of sexual abuse of minors or sexual misconduct, some dating back nearly 50 years or more. The men are either deceased or have been removed from service as priests. Most of the offenses were alleged to have occurred from the 1950s through the 1970s. At least two of those priests had multiple victims over a period of several years, if not decades, in multiple assignments within the archdiocese.

In late December, Archbishop Jerome Hanus of the Dubuque archdiocese, which covers the northeast quadrant of Iowa, wrote to Northeast Iowa Catholics that 26 priests were accused of abusing children from 1950 to 2002. Those allegations arose from the accounts of 67 victims, including 55 boys and 12 girls. Hanus also said officials in the church sometimes failed to stop the abuse, which contributed to more children being victimized.

Hanus has apologized for the inaction, and responded with the appointment of three victim assistance coordinators and the creation in 2002 of an archdiocesan review board which re-drafted diocesan policies and receive new complaints of abuse. A previously existing anti-abuse policy drafted under Hanus' predecessor, Archbishop Daniel Kucera, resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of a Dubuque priest in 1997.

Still, "the church missed a great opportunity to come forward" at the outset, the second local victim said. "If they had been truthful from the beginning, other denominations who had abuses would have followed their lead," as well as other sectors of society.

"There's a lot of talk about the good nuns and priests," the second victim continued. "I would like to see the good nuns and priests come out against child abuse, against any religious abuse, and clean up their own convents, clean up their own diocese, clean up their own orders. I hear very little publicly about the good nuns and priests coming out and saying anything. It comes down to truth and trust. It is not going to happen until it all comes out."


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