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  Catholics Awaiting Financial Decision

By Todd Ruger
Quad-City Times [Grand Mound IA]
October 14, 2004

GRAND MOUND, Iowa ó The 30 people who sat around a circle of tables in the basement of the Sts. Philip and James Catholic Church laughed at some anecdotes from last weekend, when they tried to pass out fliers at area parishes.
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Theyíve printed 4,000 more fliers to distribute this weekend with their message: Bishop William Franklin should meet with parishioners about whether filing for bankruptcy is the right move for the Catholic Diocese of Davenport.
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But the group, who calls themselves Catholics for Spiritual Healing, spent most of their time learning all they could about what a bankruptcy could mean from attorney Craig Levien.
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As the Nov. 1 date for the first in a series of trials over decades-old allegations of sex abuse draws near, the questions echoed those heard by priests across the diocese.
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How might their church be affected?
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"My sense is that they know they have more questions than answers," the Rev. Anthony Herold of Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton said in a telephone interview Wednesday, a week after the pamphlets were put on cars outside the parish last weekend.
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"The parishioners are concerned about whether this will affect the parishes," he said, adding that many trust Franklin is making the right choices. "I donít know what else we can do."
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Future uncertain
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Diocese attorney Rand Wonio and the attorney for the men who allege sexual abuse by priests, Levien, say attempts to settle the lawsuits continue.
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But Franklin has stated it is not in the best interest for the diocese or the men claiming sexual abuse to have any of the lawsuits go to trial Nov 1.
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Wednesday, Levien called diocese bankruptcy "a very real possibility" while Wonio said the diocese is "concerned there are so many issues to resolve with insurance and other things we donít have time to get them settled."
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That leaves a little over two weeks for mediations and leaves parish leaders, such as Joe Ragona of Long Grove, wondering what will happen.
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"I know itís the concern of every Catholic," Ragona said. "The concern with the parish ... are we working for naught at St. Annís (in Long Grove)?"
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While the diocese believes the parishes are separate
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corporations and should not be taken into any diocese bankruptcy, attorneys for the claimants dispute that. The question ultimately could be decided in bankruptcy or state court, attorneys said.
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At St. Mary in Pella, a three-hour drive west from the Quad-Cities, talks of diocese bankruptcy has caused scuttlebutt among parishioners ó but not too much, the Rev. Dennis Hoffman said.
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"Theyíre just wondering, ĎAre the parishes involved?í " said Hoffman, who attended an Iowa City meeting where Franklin warned parish leaders about the possibility of bankruptcy. "Iím just reporting right back what the bishop said."
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Catholics for Spiritual Healing plans to continue placing pamphlets on cars at upcoming Masses, a strategy that met resistance from some parish priests.
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Herold, the priest at Prince of Peace, says the allegations of sexual abuse hits him personally because he had classmates who were abused at St. Josephís in Fort Madison, where he grew up.
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He said he recently told his mother, "Luckily I was at St. Maryís (in Fort Madison.)"
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Yet he confronted the people putting fliers on the cars at Mass there last week because the church doesnít allow fliers to go on cars in the parking lot, but also out of concern that the effort might be more lawyer-driven.
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The group members include relatives of men who allege sexual abuse by priests.
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"It really makes it look like the bishopís at fault for something and I donít think he is," Herold said. "I donít understand their take on all this. ... I went to the Web site and I still donít understand."
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But Victor Green, who has two brothers claiming sexual abuse by priests and who handed out fliers at the church Sunday, said he was dumfounded.
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"I really felt offended as a lifelong Catholic that I wasnít welcome in a Catholic parking lot," he said.
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The group said it passed out more than 3,000 fliers that asked concerned parishioners to call Franklin, and received 1,500 hits to the Web site, www.shcatholics.com.
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Whether to allow the fliers to be placed on cars is left up to individual pastors, diocesan spokesman David Montgomery said.
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"The bishop says he has received a few calls; both in favor of bankruptcy and in support of whatever decision has to be made," Montgomery said in an e-mail Wednesday.
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Herold said the open meetings about bankruptcy with Franklin called for by the group would be fine, "but I donít know what light that would shed on this."
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"All of us would like to see that chapter behind us," he said. "We know itís not going to be anytime soon."

 
 

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