|Order's Leader, Former Member Stand Accused
By Ann Mcglynn
July 13, 2008
They entertained visitors at Christmastime with a huge display at their landmark monastery, ran a carpet cleaning business, taught in local Catholic schools, hosted receptions and offered tours to such places as New York and the World’s Fair in New Orleans.
They wanted to get an elderly housing project off the ground.
The 12-member Franciscan Brothers of Christ the King owned what is now known as The Abbey Hotel in Bettendorf, the halfway house at 605 Main St. in Davenport and occupied the former convent at Holy Family Catholic Church during its 15-year stay in the Quad-Cities.
But the order sold the monastery in 1991.
The Franciscan Brothers now are based in Spring Valley, Ohio, after relocating several times in the past 18 years — first to Illinois, then Indiana, then Florida, then Ohio.
They are no longer recognized as an organization by the Catholic Church, a designation lost in 2003.
On Thursday, the order’s leader, Brother Francis Skube, was named as one of the 24 clergy credibly accused of sex abuse in the Diocese of Davenport. A former member, Mark Quillen, is on the list, too. He is believed to be living in a monastery in Massachusetts.
Skube learned Friday morning the diocese put him on the credibly accused list, he said.
"…at no time did the diocesan officials ever call or write a letter about any formal complaint against me," Skube said in a written statement. Now-retired Bishop William Franklin did write a letter five years ago telling him of an accusation and "demanding" the order pay for the survivor’s therapy.
"The brothers and I made many true and lasting friends in the Quad-Cities. Their friendship has never been revoked despite these reports," he said.
Mark Powell and Don Davidson offer strikingly different stories than those of Christmas displays and lavish receptions. They were abused as new members of Franciscan Brothers of Christ the King in 1977.
"The pain exists every day," said Powell, who recently became a pastor with the Disciples of Christ.
The Franciscan Brothers of Christ the King came to the Quad-Cities in 1975 from Belleville, Ill., according to Quad-City Times archives. Bishop Gerald O’Keefe announced their arrival. They were interested in teaching in elementary schools and pursuing studies at St. Ambrose University.
They purchased the convent at Holy Family. A chapel was added to the building for them, dedicated in 1978 by O’Keefe.
In May 1981, they purchased the 91-room, 65-year-old historic monastery in Bettendorf from the Unity Church of Mount Carmel for $200,000. The building, now The Abbey Hotel, overlooks the Mississippi River in Bettendorf and is one of the area’s most notable properties. Before Unity, the building was owned by the Discalced Carmelite nuns, who moved to Eldridge, Iowa.
A January 1984 article detailed their receptions, how they cleaned the massive structure, their carpet cleaning and tour endeavors and how their order worked.
"Most orders belong to the whole world; but ours was founded to be diocesan. We are under the sponsorship of his excellency the Most Rev. Gerald Francis O’Keefe, bishop of Davenport," Skube said.
Five taught in elementary schools, all were involved in religious education, the story says. Each received $10 a month to spend as they wished.
Skube explained that their "vow of poverty" is "giving up personal property – not that we can’t have heating, comfortable surroundings or a swimming pool. For all his lavish surroundings, the Pope is poorer than we are.
"The outstanding characteristic of the Franciscan order is the spirit of joy. We enjoy a good laugh."
In October 1986, the brothers received the closed motel at 605 Main St., Davenport, as a donation. The motel opened in 1965 and was the site of a 1971 slaying of a Davenport police officer. They planned to convert it into a residence for the elderly. Skube promised three meals a day and recreational activities for seniors who are able to live independently.
They gave up the plan for financial reasons, Skube said in an article in the Quad-City Times. They sold the building in December 1986. It now is a halfway house.
One year later, in January 1988, the order bought a house on Linwood Avenue in Davenport, also for a senior citizen residence.
The monastery went up for sale in fall 1989, approximately six months after Brother Daniel Embrich was found not guilty in a jury trial of indecent contact with a child.
At the time, and again Saturday, Skube said the brothers wanted to build a home for the elderly. The move had nothing to do with Embrich’s trouble with the law, Skube said Saturday.
The order said it was heading to Peoria, where it operated a small retirement home, Skube said. "We were a smashing success."
But the group left Peoria for Indiana.
In LaPorte, Ind., a spokesman for the Diocese of Gary said, the order purchased the estate of famed Oakland Athletic’s owner Charlie Finley.
Since its time there, the brothers have called several other cities in Indiana, Florida and Ohio home.
Tax documents, public record because the order is considered a nonprofit organization, show it had assets of $2.5 million in 2006 – the most recent year available. The documents also detail hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property acquisitions and sales between 2004 and 2006.
Skube, Embrich and Kenneth Pinc are listed on those tax documents as the organization’s leaders. Skube says the order has five members.
Mark Powell came to the Quad-Cities in 1977 from his home near Chicago. The 17-year-old graduated from high school early because he wanted to serve God. He believed the order he found near Holy Family Catholic Church was the place to do that.
The abuse began soon after he entered the Franciscan Brothers in February 1977, he said. The first instance was shortly after Quillen comforted him after he heard Embrich screaming as Skube beat him.
"I was scared to death. I thought ‘Oh my God, what is this?’ When you enter into a group like that, there is a groupthink that goes on," Powell said. "Basically, you have this brainwashing that goes on, you have to not question, you have to follow everything, this is from God."
Then Skube abused him during a trip to Illinois, he said.
Powell was not able to make phone calls without monitoring. He was not able to send or receive mail without it being read. He was not able to take a walk without one of the brothers with him. The only time he could be truly alone was during his studies at St. Ambrose University.
"It was like a prison in there," he said.
Powell called Bishop O’Keefe from a pay phone near Galvin Hall in late Fall 1977. He told him he wanted to become a priest. O’Keefe told him he needed a letter of recommendation from Skube. Later that night, when Powell went to Skube to discuss the matter, Skube asked what would happen if he didn’t give him a letter of recommendation. Powell told Skube he would reveal the sex abuse perpetrated upon him and a fellow brother, Don Davidson, to the bishop. Embrich jumped out of a closet and threatened to kill him, he said.
Powell fled, took the order’s brown Chevy station wagon and drove to the bishop’s house. The brothers followed closely behind. Davidson arrived at the bishop’s house, too, that night. Powell and Davidson told O’Keefe of the abuse.
O’Keefe granted Powell’s request to study to become a priest, after requiring him to spend one more night with the brothers.
It was the most terrifying night of his life, Powell said.
He never became a priest. He left seminary after another priest on the diocese’s list of credibly accused, William Wiebler, attempted to have sex with him.
"Being a priest to me was everything. To leave that, I knew that my life was going to be difficult," Powell said.
He instead became a radio guy. He married and has a daughter. Blessings, he calls them.
He recently graduated from seminary and is awaiting a Disciples of Christ church to pastor, he said.
He left the Catholic Church in 2002. His twin brother, a priest, does not speak with him. His mother, a staunch Catholic, harbored hard feelings, too.
Lots of things trigger the pain of abuse, the Indiana resident said. But one key healing moment was the announcement that the library at St. Ambrose University would no longer bear the name of Bishop O’Keefe – at Powell’s request. "He told me to keep it to myself and that he’d take care of it," Powell said in August, when officials removed O’Keefe’s name. "He didn’t take care of it."
Powell is one of the creditors in the diocese bankruptcy.
"I’ve seen what cover up and quiet does to people. I know what it has done to me. You can’t inflict that upon people in the name of Jesus," he said.
Don Davidson converted to Catholicism when he was a freshman in high school. He was active in his church. He learned of the Franciscan Brothers from an elderly member of the congregation.
He joined the order in 1977, on his 18th birthday.
"From the very first, I thought things were different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. They just did a whole lot of things that were kind of weird. I was a new Catholic. I was young, naive. I had always lived in small towns. I took things as I came. I rapidly learned that Father Francis was not someone that you crossed. He had a horrible temper."
Skube hid that temper from the order’s benefactors, Davidson said.
Skube abused him twice, he said. Davidson became depressed. He revealed the abuse to his fellow brother, Powell.
On the night Davidson, Powell, and the brothers ended up at the bishop’s house – around Halloween 1977 – O’Keefe allowed Davidson to spend the night there. His parents came to get him the next day.
Davidson never told them what happened. He told his siblings after his parents died.
Davidson did not receive a settlement from the diocese. He did not file a claim in the diocese’s bankruptcy case. Why? He was 18 when the abuse happened, he said.
The diocese offered to pay for his deductible for counseling sessions after he wrote diocesan officials, at the suggestion of his physician, during a deep depression that began eight years ago. That payment ended in March, Davidson said, after he agreed to allow the diocese to review his treatment records. They determined he was not getting adequate care and requested a detailed plan for his therapy.
He never received an apology for the abuse he suffered, words Davidson would appreciate, he said. Bishop Martin Amos did agree to meet with Davidson in the Quad-Cities, he said. A diocesan official could not be reached for comment.
Davidson is a nursing assistant with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Topeka, Kan. He’s worked there for 29 years. He started there after a second, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt at entering a religious order.
Davidson and Powell stayed in touch for about a year after that night at the bishop’s house in 1977, he said. They reconnected about six years ago after Powell and his wife, Dona, tracked him down.
The abuse, he said, "has pretty much impacted every aspect of my life."
"Culturally I am Catholic," Davidson said when asked about if he remained Catholic. "I have very little faith left."
In 2003, in the Diocese of Indianapolis, the Franciscan Brothers of Christ the King relinquished their Canonical support, Skube confirmed Saturday. They lost their listing in the Official Catholic Directory in 2004, the large volume that details the people and organization sanctioned by the church.
"We are still together," he said, adding that the group gave up the support on its own accord when "this matter was brought up." Skube continues to refer to himself as Brother Francis Skube.
On Friday, Skube, in his statement, said Powell appeared to be "unusually happy" as a member of our community. We find it very difficult if what Mr. Powell says is true that he waited so many years to come forth."
When asked Saturday about Davidson, he said he was not going to get into it. "You could go on endlessly about that stuff."
Skube is bothered by the removal of O’Keefe’s name from the library.
"I do not know of any other bishop that was as kindly, humble, truthful and who listened carefully to what the clergy, religious and laity had to say. It is sad that our society today makes judgments about people even when the dead person cannot defend themself.
"As to defending myself, it is obvious that it didn’t go well for the other members of the clergy, especially when people’s minds are already made up," Skube said in his statement.
Ann McGlynn can be contacted at (563) 383-2336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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