Name of Accused Priest to Be Released This Week
The Diocese of Davenport Decides to Take the Action to Find out If More People Claim to Be Victims

By Erin Jordan and Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
August 26, 2004

Iowa City, Ia. - The Diocese of Davenport plans to tell Iowa City Catholics this week the name of a priest accused of molesting a boy in Iowa City in 1998.

"What we are doing now is giving the information to the public, so we can find out if anyone else was mistreated by the priest," said Rand Wonio, attorney for the diocese.

Whether parishioners will learn of the allegations through church bulletins, announcements at Mass, or some other way has not yet been decided.

"I have no idea how that would happen," said the Rev. Walter Helms, priest at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Iowa City.

Wonio said the diocese will contact all parishes and "other entities" where the priest served. He would not say what the the other entities are, only that they are within the Catholic Church.

"We are first meeting with key personnel every place he worked," Wonio said. "We will tell them what happened and then work with them in deciding what is the best way to make this public."

Bishop William Franklin and the Diocesan Review Board chose to release the priest's name upon completion of an independent investigation of the allegations, Wonio said. The diocese ordered the investigation, as per Catholic Church policy, after the alleged abuse was reported in 2003, officials said. At that time, the diocese also told the Johnson County attorney's office about the allegation, but no criminal investigation was conducted.

Assistant Johnson County Attorney Anne Lahey, who took the report in July 2003, said because the diocese said the alleged victim didn't want to press charges, there was no need to investigate.

Johnson County Attorney J. Patrick White said he is now gathering information to decide whether to file a criminal charge. It is rare for Johnson County to prosecute sex abuse cases in which the victim does not wish to participate, he said.

"We are highly deferential to victims' wishes. We would proceed only if there were public safety implications," White said.