Archdiocese: Former Dubuque priest faces additional allegation of sexual abuse

Telegraph Herald [Dubuque IA]

June 12, 2023

By Elizabeth Kelsey

Archdiocese of Dubuque officials said today that they have received another allegation of past sexual abuse by a former Dubuque priest. 

The new accusation of past abuse of a minor against the Rev. Leo Riley, who served in the archdiocese from 1982 to 2002, was reported to archdiocesan personnel on May 23, a press release states. That was the same day the archdiocese reported that Riley had been accused of sexually abusing a minor in the 1980s.

Dubuque archdiocesan spokesperson Deacon John Robbins said today that he could not share when and where the most recently alleged abuse happened but emphasized that the investigation is ongoing.

“That investigation includes us publishing the alleged perpetrator’s ministry assignments (in the diocese) rather than focusing on a specific time or location,” he said.

Riley was ordained a priest of the Dubuque archdiocese in 1982. He requested a move to the Diocese of Venice in 2002 to be closer to his parents and became a priest of the Florida-based diocese in 2005.

According to diocesan officials from Dubuque and Florida, there were no known accusations of abuse against Riley when his request to move was granted.

This is the second allegation concerning Riley that Dubuque archdiocese officials have said they received in May.

On May 5, archdiocese officials were notified of an allegation of abuse against Riley stemming from 1985 to 1986, when he was an associate pastor at Church of the Resurrection.

The Most Rev. Richard E. Pates, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, informed Riley’s bishop in Florida, who “placed Riley on administrative leave, applied special measures to restrict his ministry and prohibited all contact with minors during an investigative process,” today’s press release states.

Robbins said today that Dubuque officials had informed the Diocese of Venice about the latest allegation. 

Karen Schwarz, director of communications at the Diocese of Venice, said Riley remains on administrative leave “until the results of the investigation are completed.” In a May 17 letter to parishioners, written after the May 5 allegation, the Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, the Bishop of Venice, wrote that Riley “strenuously denies” the allegation.

In March 2015, a former Dubuque resident publicly accused Riley of abusing him in October 1985, when the former resident was in fourth grade and serving as an altar boy at Resurrection. In July 2015, now-retired Dubuque Archbishop Michael Jackels wrote in a letter to parishioners that “the best information available does not support a reasonable belief that the allegation is true.”

Diocesan officials said last month that the person who communicated with church officials on May 5 was not the same person who made the accusation in 2015. Robbins said Monday that the person who made the most recent allegation against Riley is a third individual.

In an emailed statement, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called on both dioceses to “disclose everything they know” about Riley.

“We would also urge Catholic officials to reach out to parishioners in every church where this clergyman worked and beg anyone who experienced, witnessed or suspected abuse to come forward,” the statement reads.

Anyone with information about sexual abuse allegations concerning Riley when he was working in the Archdiocese of Dubuque is asked to contact Lynn Osterhaus, archdiocesan director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People, at 563-556-2580.

“We pray for those who have suffered from heinous abuses by the clergy and will do what we can to bring healing in the midst of outrage and hurt,” Pates said in the release, reflecting on past abuses by clergy. “This archdiocese is committed to working diligently to ensure a safe environment for children and all vulnerable individuals in our churches and schools.”