Priest who served at churches in Council Bluffs is on leave after sex abuse allegations found credible
By Michael O’connor
July 2, 2014
The Diocese of Des Moines said it found credible an allegation that a priest who formerly served in western Iowa had sexually abused a minor.
The Rev. Howard Fitzgerald, 62, was put on administrative leave by the diocese while the case is reviewed by the Vatican. The diocese also said it notified local law enforcement.
Anne Marie Cox, spokeswoman for the diocese, said the victim requested anonymity. She said that’s why the diocese is not releasing the gender of the alleged victim, where and when the abuse is alleged to have occurred, or other details. The diocese did say the allegation goes back decades.
Fitzgerald served in several posts in western Iowa, including as a teacher at St. Albert High School in Council Bluffs, starting in 1978; at St. Peter Church in Council Bluffs, starting in 1986; at St. Michael Church in Harlan, starting in 1998; and at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Glenwood, starting in 2011.
An administrator at St. Albert referred questions to the diocese.
The Rev. Dan Siepker, current pastor of Holy Rosary, said that he wasn’t aware of parishioners raising sexual abuse allegations involving Fitzgerald.
During the investigation, Bishop Richard Pates asked Fitzgerald to step aside from his most recent posts at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianola, Iowa, at Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Marys and at Simpson College, where he was a campus minister.
Pates has apologized to the victim, who was provided services of the diocese’s victim assistance advocate.
Fitzgerald could not be reached for comment.
While on leave, Fitzgerald can’t serve as a priest in public. Pates also asked him to not wear clerical garb.
The diocese allegation review committee investigated the allegation and determined it was credible.
The diocese encourages victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families to contact the diocesan victim advocate, Sherry Knox. She is a staff member at Polk County Victim Services and can be reached at 515-286-2028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.