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  Activists Want Priests' Names
Group Seeks Names of 19 Accused in Eastern Iowa

By Shirley Ragsdale
Metro Iowa
March 17, 2003

Even as Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Dubuque hold services to atone for priests who molested children and bishops who were silent, activists are complaining that the archdiocese has not released the names of 19 priests who were accused of abuse years ago.

The first atonement service was March 9 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Waterloo.

The Rev. Jerome Hanus, archbishop of Dubuque, read the litany of lament, praying for forgiveness "for all sins of abuse committed by the ministers and the community of the church."

But the effort to reverse the feelings of bitterness or despair of the victims and their families falls short, said Da-vid Wanamaker, spokesman for the Dubuque chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a group formed in response to the national priest sex abuse scandal.

"While Archbishop Hanus spoke of forgiveness, contrition and openness, he still refuses to release the names of 19 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of children from our own archdiocese," Wanamaker said. "When we approached him after the service and asked him when he was going to release those names, he turned and walked away."

The allegations against the 19 priests were accumulated from 1940 to 1995, according to Hanus. The eight who are still living are no longer serving as priests.

Hanus said he is weighing the pros and cons of releasing the names.

"Some of the names are public record," Hanus said. "I have not brought myself to the point where I think it is the right thing to make public the names of (deceased) priests against whom the allegations have been made. We do not have evidence that they were guilty. If the persons bringing forth the allegation want to make the name public, that is their choice."

The archbishop said he is considering the cases individually.

"Regarding some of the priests who are dead, some persons come forward and make credible allegations and we believe them," Hanus said. "That is what 'credible' implies.

"However, in some of these cases, we have no evidence which corroborates the allegation. No evidence is presented by the individuals other than their word. We believe their word. We have also offered to pay for counseling, and have paid for counseling for some."

When it comes to living priests, the decision is no less difficult. Some of the priests contributed to settlements with victims, Hanus said.

"From their own money, they agreed to make some restitution for the damage and hurt they had caused," Hanus said. "When I learned that a priest had agreed to make some financial restitution, that was enough for me to apply the penalties of church law and to consider the allegation to be founded."

If part of the settlement was the promise of confidentiality regarding the abuse, Hanus does not think he is free to break that word.

The archbishop said he plans to consult with the archdiocese sexual abuse review board to determine if disclosing the names of the priests might do further harm to any victims.

The 1997 case of Timothy DeVenney, a former priest at St. Columbkille Catholic Church in Dubuque, weighs heavily on Wanamaker, the activist.

"He's out of jail and living near Catholic University in Washington, D.C.," Wanamaker said. "If the Catholic Church is still providing for DeVenney's support, that money ultimately comes from the people in the pews. We have a right to know."

DeVenney pleaded guilty to abusing several teenagers and was sentenced in 1997 to two 10-year prison terms, Hanus said.

"After serving part of his sentence, DeVenney was granted a parole," Hanus said. "One of the conditions for the parole was that the archdiocese make it possible for him to receive treatment. So we have an obligation that comes from the Iowa judicial system. ... This includes retraining him. Once that is completed, he should be able to take care of himself and our legal obligation should cease. But that will be for the judge or the court to say."

At each of the atonement services, priests and deacons prostrated themselves on the altar, asking forgiveness for priests who abused children and bishops who covered up the crimes.

"The abusers weren't up there -they were sitting at home," Wanamaker said. "Maybe this is a new trend, a designated sinner. The abusers didn't spend the day in prayer and publicly confessing. Instead good priests were taking the rap for true criminals."

 
 

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