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  NBC Reporter Accuses Diocese of Cover-Up
Dallas: Correspondent Says He Was Abused 43 Years Ago in Iowa

By Jeffrey Weiss
Dallas Morning News
July 22, 2005

Jim Cummins, a Dallas-based correspondent for NBC News, has accused a Catholic archdiocese in Iowa of covering up two instances of sexual abuse that happened to him almost 43 years ago.

Mr. Cummins, 60, has sued the archdiocese of Dubuque. The suit, filed in federal court in Iowa last year, does not identify him as a network newsman. This week, however, the archdiocese filed its written response denying the allegations and identifying Mr. Cummins as an NBC correspondent.

An Iowa newspaper, The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, reported the professional connection last year, but until this week it remained largely unknown outside Iowa.

Mr. Cummins, reached at work in Dallas on Friday, declined to comment. His lawyer in Iowa, Chad Swanson, would say only that he planned to rebut the denials from the archdiocese.

The Dallas Morning News generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse, but Mr. Cummins agreed to publication of his name.

The archdiocese said Mr. Cummins' charges, even if true, were filed long after the statute of limitations has passed. In its legal response, it said archdiocese officials knew nothing about Mr. Cummins' claims until last year, when he filed suit. It asked that the lawsuit be dismissed.

Mr. Cummins, chief of NBC News' Southwest Bureau, was an altar boy and high school basketball star in Cedar Rapids. In the summer of 1962, when he was 17, he was abused by three priests, he said in his lawsuit.

One of those he accused, the Rev. William Roach, died in a car accident in 1986, according to papers filed by the diocese. By that time, he had been promoted to monsignor. Mr. Cummins' lawsuit does not identify the other two priests.

Mr. Cummins' suit said Father Roach assaulted him twice, each time joined by a different priest. After fending off the second attack, the suit said, he told his parents, who then told Father Roach's supervisor. According to the lawsuit, Father Roach remained at the church and in contact with boys until he was transferred in 1967.

The suit said Mr. Cummins suffered a "major panic attack" and was hospitalized in 1965 and said the abuse has left him with lifelong psychological problems.

The diocese said it has no record of any complaints about Father Roach until after the priest's death.

Iowa law sets a two-year statute of limitations on filing suit over sexual abuse. For victims younger than 21, the two years doesn't start until after their 21st birthday.

An exception, however, can be made for a victim who is unaware of an injury until after the legal clock has run out. But the diocese, quoting from Mr. Cummins' depositions, said he was aware of the incidents at the time, had told his parents about them and had discussed them several times over the ensuing years with his wife.

Mr. Swanson, the correspondent's lawyer, declined to say how he would rebut the statute-of-limitations arguments � only that he intends to explain Mr. Cummins' position in writing at the appropriate time.

According to The Gazette, a December 2003 report by the archdiocese said it had received 67 credible sex-abuse allegations against 26 priests over a 52-year period. Allegations against six other priests could not be confirmed. The diocese reported that it had paid nearly $1.2 million for settlements and treatment.

Over the last few years, at least 14 lawsuits have been filed against the Dubuque archdiocese, accusing seven priests of abuse, The Associated Press reported.

In its legal response to Mr. Cummins' suit, the archdiocese lists his award-winning professional history. He has been chief of NBC's Southwest Bureau, based in Dallas, since 1989.

An Iowa representative for an abuse-victim organization said the appearance of success can hide years of pain.

"A lot of time, people end up being workaholics as a result of the abuse," said Steve Theisen of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"That doesn't mean you don't have nightmares at night or that you don't have relationship problems and things like that."

 
 

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