Organized Effort on Catholic Sex Abuse

By Rachel Leigh
TV9 Cedar Rapids Newsroom [Iowa]
April 8, 2004

Hundreds of Roman Catholic priests have been accused of sexual abuse in the past several years.

The Archdiocese of Dubuque has received 67 credible allegations against 26 priests between 1950 and 2002.

That's 2.4 percent of the clergy in the Archdiocese.

The Archdiocese says it has settled two of the cases both for under $100,000.

A Hudson man says he's displeased with the way the catholic church has handled the sex abuse allegations.

So he's organizing an eastern Iowa chapter of SNAP, which stands for "The survivors network of those abused by priests."

Steve Theisen was just nine years old when he says he was sexually abused here at Sacred Heart School in Dubuque.

Now Theisen is using his experiences to help reach out to others.

"My mother and me at first communion and my little sister."

For Steve Theisen, these childhood pictures bring back unwanted memories.

Theisen says his fourth grade teacher, a nun, sexually abused him at school.

Abuse victim Steve Theisen told TV9, "She taught me how the Eskimos kissed. A few days after school later she taught me how the Americans kissed. And awhile after that she taught me how the French kissed."

He endured the abuse for two years.

Theisen stayed quiet because he felt guilty.

"Here was a 9 year old boy who was cheating on Jesus."

Theisen says he wants the Archdiocese to release the nun's name.

He says it may help more victims to come forward and inform parishes but the Archdiocese will not release the name until there's sufficient evidence.

Barta told TV9, "Sisterís innocent until proven guilty and therefore we don't think that we should be publicizing her name."

The nun is of the Franciscan order and Monsignor Barta says it is up to the religious order, not the Archdiocese to determine any punishment.

"Iím getting the feeling that the bishop is saying I can't protect the children from abusers that are in the orders of religious men and women."

Monsignor Barta says the nun doesn't remember any abuse.

"Sheís living as a retired person, not in contact with children... what more would you do to protect people?"

Theisen says that victims needs should come first.

Whether that means returning to the church, joining a support group or seeking legal action.

For Theisen, he says it's too hard to go back to the church.

Theisen says the support of the national "SNAP" members has helped him cope and that's why he's forming a group here in eastern Iowa.

"I found it healing. You're not out there alone. There are a lot of victims that love you and a lot of support."

He says his victims support group will be safe and confidential.

Meetings will take place in Dubuque, Waterloo and Mason City.

Do you have a question or comment about this story? Click here to e-mail Rachel Leigh .