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  Reveal Names of Accused Clergy, Group Says
Victims Advocates Picket the Archdiocese of Dubuque after a Woman Alleges She Was Raped by a Priest When She Was 12 Years Old

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
March 15, 2005

Victims advocates on Monday increased pressure on Dubuque's Catholic archbishop to disclose the names of priests accused of abuse in the wake of another new priest-abuse lawsuit.

On Friday, a Dubuque woman identified as Jane Doe sued the archdiocese alleging she was raped as a 12-year-old student of Sacred Heart School in Dubuque by a priest who instructed her in the confessional to meet him in the school's basement. Once there, the Rev. John A. Schmitz raped her, the lawsuit alleges.

The alleged assault occurred in 1959. Schmitz died in 1991. The lawsuit states that the diocese knew of the assault within about a year because the girl told another priest in confession.

That priest took her to the archdiocese offices, where she repeated the account. When confronted with the information, Schmitz reportedly confessed, according to the lawsuit.

In a statement Monday, Dubuque Archbishop Jerome Hanus said Schmitz was assigned to nine parishes from 1957 until 1982, when people from his last parish, St. Mary's in Greene, complained about his financial management and his relationship with a woman.

Archbishop James Byrne sent Schmitz to a treatment program, Hanus said.

After treatment, the archbishop did not accept him back into the Dubuque Archdiocese, but did allow him to accept assignment as an associate pastor in San Bernardino, Calif., after an official of that diocese informed him that "no pathology or illness was discovered by his therapists."

In 2003, a California woman sued the San Bernardino Diocese and the Dubuque Archdiocese saying Schmitz abused her as a minor.

"What John Schmitz is alleged to have done to both young women was clearly wrong and violates his vows as a priest," Hanus said.

"If such a situation were reported to the church today, it would be turned over to the criminal authorities for investigation, unless the sole source of the information was communications received during (confession)."

On Monday, members of the North East Iowa chapter of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests picketed the Dubuque Archdiocese pastoral center.

The group has said Hanus should disclose the names of all priests with credible allegations of abuse against them.

"I am appalled," said Steve Theisen of Hudson, co-founder of the group. "Society would not accept serial rapists and child sex offenders to run free, but according to this latest lawsuit, the Dubuque Archdiocese did just that.

"Sexual abuse is devastating to the victim and his or her family. I just don't understand it. The family unit is supposed to be the sacred core of the Catholic community.

"Yet Archbishop Hanus refuses to release the names of all religious sexual predators within the archdiocese, and in doing so continues to hurt already wounded men and women by his action."

The archdiocese is facing several lawsuits alleging that church officials tolerated and reassigned abuser priests, a policy instrumental in fueling the nationwide scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church.

According to a February accounting by Hanus, 34 people have reported sexual abuse by priests over the past two years.

Previously, he reported that 67 victims reported abuse by 26 priests between 1950 and 2002.

Earlier this year, Hanus asked the Vatican to sanction seven Catholic priests against whom there are credible allegations of sexual misconduct, but he declined to name them.

In a February letter to archdiocese Catholics, Hanus said that until the church sanctions priests or criminal or civil procedures run their course, revealing the names of the accused risks ruining the reputations of individuals who may be innocent.

 
 

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