Bishop Responds to Accusations of Deceit

By William E. Franklin
Quad-City Times [Iowa]
February 24, 2006

On Feb. 2, I met with people of Concerned Catholics of the Davenport Diocese, Iowa City; Catholics for Spiritual Healing of Grand Mound; and Iowa SNAP, groups representing victims sexually abused by priests. We bishops from three of the four Iowa dioceses and a representative of the fourth bishop met with this group. We met with them at their request and felt the meeting was productive.

Last week in the Quad-City Times, persons from these groups publicly accused me of lying about whether an investigation took place regarding retired Bishop Lawrence Soens who previously served as a priest in the Diocese of Davenport.

I would have no reason to purposely lie about anything much less an investigation in which a report had already been turned over to attorneys. All I can say is that I have not been an active participant in any investigation and had forgotten that it had taken place almost four years ago. If my forgetfulness has offended anyone, I am sorry.

The Diocese of Davenport has received several allegations of sexual abuse against Lawrence Soens stemming from his service as principal of Regina High School from 1959-1967. There has never been a full-scale Canonical investigation performed, nor does the Diocese of Davenport have the right or authority to perform such an investigation. The reports of sexual abuse against Bishop Soens have been sent to the Papal Nunciature to the United States for its recommendations and only the Vatican can take any action against him.

When the diocese received the first allegation against Bishop Soens in April 2002, a committee looked into the allegation. They met with the victim, and I also visited with him on the telephone. Our superintendent of schools met with the staff of Regina High School to respond to their concerns and to assure them that the diocese was investigating the matter. This investigation was conducted in accord with the 2002 diocesan policy on sexual misconduct. During the committee's last meeting with the victim, he withdrew a claim of sexual misconduct and stated that he believed the pinching he alleged against Bishop Soens was an intimidation tactic. The committee members concluded that the conduct was not appropriate, but they could not determine whether it was sexual abuse. The victim told the committee that he was satisfied with the response made by the diocese.

I am very saddened and hurt by the accusation that I lied to the victim-advocacy groups. I have met with victims of sexual abuse by clergy and will continue to do so. I am profoundly sorry for what has happened to all victims of sexual abuse, and they remain in my prayers daily.

Bishop William E. Franklin is the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Davenport.


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