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  Official in Davenport Diocese Wants to Return to Priest Duties
Monsignor Drake Shafer Settled a Suit over Alleged Sexual Abuse in 2004

By Ragsdale Shirley
Des Moines Register
November 23, 2005

The top administrative officer for the Davenport Catholic Diocese, accused of child sexual abuse, is seeking to return to duties as a priest.

The Davenport Diocese said Tuesday it has empaneled a special 10-member review board to consider the request of Monsignor Drake Shafer.

Shafer was vicar general, second in command in the diocese, when a West Burlington man sued him and the diocese alleging the priest sexually assaulted him in the 1970s. Identified only as John Doe, the plaintiff said he was 14 or 15 at the time.

An April 2002 e-mail Shafer sent to the victim was read in a court hearing on March 19, 2004. In the message, Shafer said he was drunk on the night in question and apologized for hurting the victim.

"I did not intend to abuse you that night or any other," the e-mail said.

Shafer denied the allegations, but later settled the lawsuit. The diocese also settled with the victim as part of a $9 million settlement in 2004 with several plaintiffs.

Earlier this year, Peter Fieweger, Shafer's attorney, said his client would "do everything in his power to get back into his priestly functions."

Steve Theisen of Hudson, co-founder of North East Iowa Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, opposes Shafer's being reinstated as a priest.

"We expect the Davenport Diocese to abide by the Dallas Charter to protect children and faithfully follow their zero tolerance policy," Theisen said. "Ministry is no place for someone who has abused children."

The charter, agreed upon in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, says founded abuse allegations are grounds for removal from the priesthood.

When the time came to review Shafer's case, the Davenport Diocese sexual abuse review board recused itself "due to personal relationships with Monsignor Shafer." Bishop William Franklin asked members of Dubuque, Omaha and Peoria review boards to serve as a substitute board.

"They're a tough bunch." said Rand Wonio, diocesan attorney. The group includes an assistant county attorney, psychologists, counselors, police officers, a school superintendent and two Davenport Diocese priests.

Craig Levien, the victim's attorney, said Tuesday that he and his client participated in a hearing Nov. 5 before the special review board.

"Everything is conducted in complete secrecy," said Levien. "The only thing we've been told is that they require extra cooperation from Shafer. We know they have the e-mails with the admitted conduct by Shafer. We'll see if they believe his denial."

In a statement, Franklin declined comment but said when the special review board presents its final recommendation, information will be given to the public.

 
 

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