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  Record Settlement in Church Abuse Case

By Anthony Welsch
KIMT [Iowa]
February 21, 2006

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The Catholic Church and 20 people who say they were sexually abused by clergy have reached a record $5,000,000 settlement.

The two sides made seperate announcements on Tuesday.

There are areally two parts to the settlement. Each victim gets $250,000. That's the economic side.

But there are some other stipulations in the agreement that are more about piece of mind.

"What's it worth for your child to be sexually molested? 10,000 dollars? 30,000? What's it worth to parents, you know?" Steve Theisen the President of SNAP, a survivor support group tells KIMT Newschannel 3.

For many of the victims, sure, the cash will help pay for things like therapy. But today is about more than just money.

"I think they want recognition, by that, 'yeah, I was abused by Father X or I was abused by sister Y.' They want that name to come public, they want people to believe them," Theisen said.

Each victim now has the right to tell their story at the parish they were abused. They say that can be a big part of starting to heal.

"It has been a very healing process and with getting these emotions and feelings in touch with them and out in the open it no longer allows him to hurt me any longer," an abuse victim in Waterloo said.

But maybe more importantly--- now the names of all accused priests will be put on the archbishops website.

That's a big piece of accountability they feel is missing.

"I understand anyone with a leadership role in any organization has a direct accountability to keep children safe. Period," Lori Day, the wife of an abuse victim said.

When you look at the eight priests named in today's settlement--- you can see how they spread across various parishes in our area and all across northeastern Iowa. This map shows the nine priests in the settlement and all the places they've served.

The archbishop says that's a problem they're sorry for and want to find a solution to.

"Abuse to a child by anyone is horrendous. it's worse when it's a priest. Priests who abused are a disgrace to the vocation and a scandal to the faithful," Archbishop Jerome Hannus said.

Local parishes say the money the diocese pays out in the settlment won't come from them. The church has an insurance policy that covers things like this. In other words, the money from this Sunday's collection won't be paid out to those victims.

Below are several documents related to the case including official statements made by both sides and an open letter of apology sent by Archbishop Hannus to the victims.

If you'd like to view a list of the nine priests named and where they have served, check out links we mentioned and head to the Dubuque Archbishop's website.

Archbishop's Official Statement:

The Archdiocese of Dubuque has settled several lawsuits filed by persons who as minors were sexually abused by priests. Most of the abuse took place in the 1950s and 1960s.

Lawsuits were filed by fifteen individuals; another five persons came forward and associated themselves with those who had filed. Instead of the trials which were already scheduled, the victims and the Archdiocese agreed to enter into mediation talks. The victims were represented by their legal counsel, while the Archdiocese was represented by Archbishop Jerome Hanus, Msgr. James Barta, and Brendan Quann, counsel.

The mediation took place over two days. Although most of the victims were not able to be present, Archbishop Hanus met with some of the victims during the week. Almost all of the other victims made videotaped presentations in which they described the abuse and its effect in their lives. Archbishop Hanus and Msgr. Barta viewed all of these presentations.

The priests who were named in the lawsuits are: Fathers Albert Carman, William Goltz, Patrick McElliott, John Peters, William Roach, John Schmitz, and William Schwartz. All are deceased except William Schwartz. William Schwartz has been dismissed from the clerical state. Two other priests were accused but lawsuits have not been filed: Fathers Julius Olinger and Robert Reiss, both of whom are also deceased.

The Archdiocese agreed to pay the sum of five million dollars to the victims.

Besides the financial settlement, the Archdiocese committed itself to several activities, many of which it has been doing for years, to raise awareness of the effects of sexual abuse of minors and to invite victims to come forward and seek help. Among these commitments are the following:

1. The Archdiocese will list on its Web site (www.arch.pvt.k12.ia.us) the names and assignments of church personnel who abused or have been publicly accused of abusing minors according to the criteria indicated under "Archdiocese of Dubuque Table of Accused Priests." This table may be found by accessing "Protection of God's Children" on the home page.

2. The Archdiocese will continue to publish periodic notices in The Witness in which persons who as minors were sexually abused by church personnel are invited to come forward and encouraged to contact law enforcement personnel. Throughout the Archdiocese there are about three thousand icons (sacred posters) of St. Raphael the Archangel with information on how to reach the Archdiocesan Coordinators of Victim Assistance. Joyce Connors, the Director of the Office for Protection of Children, is also available to assist victims.

3. The Archdiocese will allow victims who were involved in this settlement the opportunity to speak at their home parish or in the parish where they were abused, if they wish to do so. This would take place following a Sunday Mass.

4. The Archbishop will continue his long-standing practice of writing to victims. The persons participating in this settlement who have not received a letter are requesting that a personal letter be written to them. The Archbishop will continue his practice of visiting privately with victims who request such a meeting.

5. The Archdiocese will pay for counseling and therapy for these victims (including spouses) for up to twelve sessions during the rest of this calendar year.

Arriving at this settlement means that none of the scheduled trials will take place. The pain and suffering which could be involved in a public trial will be avoided. Victims have already suffered much. It can be traumatic for a victim to give a deposition, answer interrogatories, be evaluated by a counselor, and be subjected to cross-examination.

Since most of the instances of abuse took place so long ago, insurance coverage is limited. Some of the insurance companies used in the Archdiocese in the fifties and sixties went bankrupt and are no longer in existence. The bulk of the settlement will come from the reserves of the Dubuque Archdiocesan Protection Program, the current self-insurance program of the Archdiocese. It is possible that the few instances of abuse which took place in the 1970s will be partially covered by an existing outside insurance company.

As he has done frequently in recent years, Archbishop Hanus apologizes to the victims and their families. It is his hope that this settlement will be supportive of them. He assured all the victims of his prayers for them and their families. He expressed his commitment to support them in their efforts to achieve spiritual and emotional well-being.

Sexual abuse of a child by anyone is horrendous. It is even worse when the abuser is a priest. Priests who abused are a disgrace to the vocation and a scandal to the faithful. In contrast, the vast majority of priests are good and holy servants of God and God's people. They give of their energy and time most generously. They abhor sexual abuse and work hard to ensure that the parishes, schools, and other institutions of the Archdiocese are safe. The priests want to help victims experience reconciliation, healing, and justice. Many have contacted and supported victims of sexual abuse.

The same can be said for other members of the Church. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People invites all to heed Jesus' call to show mercy and compassion to the least ones. "Jesus extended this care in a tender and urgent way to children, rebuking his disciples for keeping them away from him: 'Let the children come to me' (Mt 19:14)."

The Archdiocese of Dubuque continues to commit itself to the protection of children, striving always to make the way safe for them.

Public Apology:

February 21, 2006

To those who as minors were sexually abused by priests of the Archdiocese of Dubuque:

I write first of all to you who participated in the recent settlement with the Archdiocese. I also write to your spouses and to the members of your families. In addition, I include all survivors who as minors suffered sexual abuse perpetrated by any Church personnel.

Personally, and insofar as I can speak in the name of the entire Archdiocese, I express my profound sorrow for what you have endured. I apologize for what these priests did to you. What they did was heinous, awful, horrendous, and cries to heaven for vengeance.

For you who shared in the settlement, it is my hope that this support may give you some sense of affirmation, justification, and validation. You may not have been believed in the past. You may have felt alone and abandoned. You may need the help of counseling and therapy.

To your spouses and to other members of your families, I offer an assurance of my sorrow, my prayers, and my apology. Thank you for standing by the member of your family who was abused.

For all of you I pray that the trust you had in God, if it has been weakened or destroyed, may be restored. I hope and pray that trust in a Church which has failed you may not be lost forever. If and when you are ready, we would be blessed by your return.

I stand ready to meet with you if you desire. I want you to know that I encourage all our parishes to include victims and survivors of sexual abuse in their prayers. We must all be compassionate and understanding and supportive.

My appreciation and gratitude extend to you for having the courage to come forward. You help all of us address the suffering which sexual abuse brings. You help us recommit ourselves to the task of making the way safe for all God's children in today's churches, families, and the world.

Please pray for me as I do for you.
Most Rev. Jerome Hanus, O.S.B.
Archbishop of Dubuque
Statement from Victim's Attorneys:

 
 

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