Archdiocese of Dubuque Pays $5.2 Million to Sexual Abuse Victims
By Mary Nevans-Pederson
August 28, 2013
Another 26 claims of clergy sexual abuse against priests with the Archdiocese of Dubuque have been settled for cases from the late 1940s through the 1970s.
The archdiocese paid a total of $5.2 million to the abuse survivors: 22 men and four women, according to attorney Chad A. Swanson of the Waterloo, Iowa, firm Dutton, Braun, Staack & Hellman. The firm has resolved 83 clergy sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese since 2006.
The priests named in the latest group of claims served in schools, hospitals, colleges, convents and parishes big and small. A group representing clergy sex abuse victims said there are likely many more victims who have not reported their abuse.
“This is, we suspect, fewer than half of all such victims,” said Steve Theisen, director of the Iowa chapter ofSurvivors Network of those Abused by Priests, in a press release. “We urge Iowa’s bishops to ‘come clean’ and disclose all the settlements — those in which victims were represented by lawyers and those in which victims were not represented.”
The negotiations and settlements were worked out during the past several years while former Archbishop Jerome Hanus was head of the archdiocese. Hanus met with a number of the victims and apologized to them and their families. Efforts Wednesday to reach Hanus at Conception Abbey, where he retired to life as a monk in June, were unsuccessful.
Archbishop Michael Jackels acknowledged the painful situation he inherited.
“I am so sorry on so many levels,” said Jackels, who was installed in the archdiocese in June. “I’m sorry this happened to people in vulnerable positions and at vulnerable ages, that they were abused in this terrible way. That the person was a priest adds another level of horror to it because you should be able to trust a priest to protect you, not to be a perpetrator.”
Jackels, who worked with a handful of clergy sex abuse victims in the Wichita (Kan.) Diocese when he was bishop there, promised to do “everything humanly possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” He directed his vocations officials to maintain strict screening and testing standards for prospective clergy candidates, “no matter how desperate we are for priests.”
The settlement money was divided between the claimants according with the nature and extent of their abuse, Swanson said. The law firm negotiated three other such global settlements with the archdiocese — in 2006, 2007 and 2008 for more than $12 million — and another 10 individual cases for undisclosed amounts.
“On a per-person basis, (the settlement amount) will never be sufficient to compensate these claimants for all of the years of living with the shame, embarrassment and stigma of the abuse,” Swanson wrote in a statement. “The injuries to this group of survivors cannot be overstated. The settlement does offer the opportunity for each survivor to continue or start their personal healing process.”
As part of the settlement package, the archdiocese will pay for counseling and therapy and allow the victims to speak at their home parish or the parish where they were abused if they want to.
“I am sorry if a victim’s trust was damaged beyond repair, and I will do anything I can to restore his or her trust in the church or its leadership,” Jackels said.
The number of local reported abuse cases has declined in the past few years. Swanson said there are no new cases against the archdiocese at this time, but SNAP’s Theisen predicted there will be more. He urged “every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and coverups — by these Catholic officials or others — to find the strength to speak up, expose predators, protect kids and deter wrongdoing.”
The Table of Accused Priests can be found on the archdiocese’s website at www.arch.pvt.k12.ia.us, under “Protection of God’s Children.”
The Archdiocese paid a total of $5.2 million to the abuse survivors: 22 men and four women, according to attorney Chad A. Swanson of the Waterloo, Iowa, firm Dutton, Braun, Staack & Hellman. The firm has resolved 83 clergy sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese since 2006.
The priests named in the latest group of claims are John Reed, Joseph Patnode, Patrick McElliot, Robert Swift, William Schwartz, Robert Reiss, Allen Schmitt, Louis Wunder, Louis Wendlin and Peter Graff. All the priests are dead except for Schwartz, who was dismissed from the priesthood by Pope Benedict in 2005, and Schmitt. Schmitt has had his priestly duties curtailed, but he is still a priest and works at the archdiocesan administration center in Dubuque under supervision.
"I applaud each of these brave survivors. Like all who have suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups, they endure and continue to endure the life-long consequences from trusting someone in a collar or a habit," said Steve Theisen, Iowa director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, in a written response to the release of the claims information. "This (83) is, we suspect, fewer than half of all such victims. We urge Iowa’s bishops to 'come clean' and disclose all the settlements."
Shortly after the announcement by the law firm, the Archdiocese of Dubuque issued a statement noting that "all the abuse took place more than 35 years ago."
"Archbishop Michael Jackels and Archbishop Emeritus Jerome Hanus apologize to the victims and their families. It is their hope that this settlement will be supportive of them," it said. "The vast majority of priests are good and holy servants of God and God's people. Priests who abused are a disgrace to the vocation and a scandal to the faithful."