Rev. Francis E. Bass

Summary of Case: Rev. Francis E. Bass has been accused of abusing many boys and of sharing his victims with Revs. Janssen, Geerts, and Murphy. Ordained in 1948 after training at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis (as were they), Bass was Director of Vocations for the Davenport diocese and a member of the Personnel Board for 15 years, and was also dean of the Grinnell deanery for a year. Bass was active for 44 years at 9 parishes (7 as pastor) and was a chaplain at Ottumwa Heights College. In June 2004, Bishop Franklin asked the Pope to laicize Bass.

Ordained: June 6, 1948
Seminary: Kenrick Seminary, St. Louis MO
Incardinated: Davenport IA
Retired: 10/27/92


Resources: Bass is a very important figure in the Davenport crisis, both as accused priest and as diocesan bureaucrat, but investigative reporting is thin. Quad-City Times reporter Kay Luna's Seventh Man Accuses Diocese is a useful account of an allegation about abuse late in Bass's career, involving two parishes, one a "mission" of the other. A one-page report to Bishop O'Keefe about another allegation against Bass is the only diocesan document on Bass to be publicly filed, though hundreds of documents exist. That complaint can also be viewed from the survivor's side, and the comparison is instructive. For two brief but telling allegations of abuse by Bass at a first meeting, see a description of a boy being pimped to Bass by Janssen in his rectory (p. 2, para. 3), and a description of Bass during an initial abuse. (p. 3, para. 3-4). See also an allegation of frequent group sex involving Bass (para. 12). Bass is a defendant in the John Doe II and John Doe III cases, among others. Legal filings in those two cases are available on our legal documents page. See also the links below.

Start Stop Parish Town State Position Notes
7/8/48 6/20/57 St. Mary's

Clinton IA Assistant 3/3, 2/3. Bass's pastor was Rt. Rev. Msgr. Thomas F. Galligan, Clinton dean until his death in 1955. For Bass's last year or so at St. Mary's, his pastor was Rt. Rev. Msgr. Ambrose J. Burke, one of six diocesan consultors (1957-73) and future dean of Clinton (1960-73). Bass's fellow assistants were Vincent J. Morrissey and R.J. Ruppenkamp. Grade school (bottom picture at left) had 371 pupils in 1948-49, and the high school had 200 pupils. Geerts was stationed at another Clinton parish for Bass's entire time in Clinton. Bass, Geerts, and Janssen were all stationed in Clinton parishes 1950-53.
6/20/57 7/1/66 St. Joseph's


• In 1964, Bass allegedly abused a boy during a trip to Chicago, including a side trip to the Cook County Morgue. Bass had been grooming and abusing the boy starting in 1957. As luck would have it, the victim reported the abuse to his parish priest Janssen (who unbeknownst to the boy had taken children on similar morgue trips), and Janssen told the boy that his suspicions were not correct. See Vicar General Morrissey's 1992 reference to this complaint.

• Others allege abuse by Bass of themselves and other boys during this assignment: 1, 2, 3, 4.
IA Assistant, 2/2. Bass's pastor was Rev Louis A. Rohret, future dean (1968-70) of Davenport.  
10/2/58 8/20/73 Office of Vocations     Director  
10/2/58 8/20/73 Personnel Board     Member  
7/1/66 9/7/67 Ottumwa Heights College

Ottumwa IA Chaplain Note that the Bass assignment record provided by the diocese on 2/25/04 inaccurately described this institution as Ottumwa Heights Convent. OHC was a liberal arts college, about to admit men for the first time, and it had 360 students in 1966-67.
7/1/66 9/7/67 St. Mary's Eddyville IA Pastor 1/1 Attended by Bass from Ottumwa Heights College.
9/7/67 7/14/73 St. Joseph's East Pleasant Plain

• Accused of abusing John Doe II with Janssen during this assignment 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
IA Pastor 1/1  
9/7/67 1968 Immaculate Conception

Polishville IA Pastor 1/1 Attended by Bass from St. Joseph's
7/14/73 1/31/78 Sacred Heart Newton

Accused (para. 19) of abusing John Doe II at the Sacred Heart rectory on five to ten occasions, as well as at the St. Joseph's rectory in Sugar Creek and in hotels during trips to Daytona Beach FL and elsewhere.
IA Pastor, 1/2. Assistants were E. William Kaska, John C. Clark, and James E. Leu. Kaska would later be pastor at Our Lady of Victory in Davenport when a resident priest there, Rev. Daniel C. Mannhardt, used suspended priest Janssen for "coverage." Leu was later convicted on sexual abuse charges and served time in prison.  
12/15/76 1/31/78 Grinnell Deanery     Dean Bass was the second dean of the Grinnell deanery, established in 1972. His tenure of a little over a year was unusually brief for a dean in the Davenport diocese.
1/31/78 8/18/81 St. Patrick's

Iowa City IA Pastor, 1/2. Assistants were Robert J. Busher and then Rudolf C. Berndt.  
8/18/81 10/27/92 St. Patrick's


• An altar boy who also was in catechism classes in Delmar and Welton (see next entry) has accused Bass of abuse.
IA Pastor 1/1 During the last year of this assignment, Vicar General Morrissey and Bishop O'Keefe received an allegation (by phone on 6/29/92) about abuse committed by Bass in Chicago, while he was working at St. Joseph's in Davenport.
10/16/84 10/27/92 St. Anne's Welton

• The boy from Delmar (see previous entry) was also a victim in Welton, where he served Mass and attended catechism classes.
IA Pastor Bass attended from Delmar.
10/27/92 1993 St. Vincent Center Davenport IA Resident The diocese's 2/25/04 service record states that Bass retired on 10/27/92. The 1993 OCD states that he is living at the St. Vincent Center, but does not include him on the list of retired Davenport priests. There was apparently some interval between Bass's departure from Delmar and his retirement.
1993 2000   Iowa City IA Retired  
2000 2003 St. Vincent Center Davenport IA Retired  
6/21/04         Request for laicization The request for laicization was reportedly sent to the Vatican on 6/21/04.
1/18/05         Diocese announced that the CDF had ordered Bass to live a lfe of prayer and penance.  
9/18/14   Elms Care Center Ponca NE Died.  

Source: Bishop William E. Franklin, "A Historical Accounting of Clergy Sexual Abuse of Minors and Action Taken Regarding Certain Priests" (Davenport, Iowa: Diocese of Davenport, February 25, 2004). Supplemented and corrected from the Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy and Sons, 1949-2003). Some diocesan documents submitted as exhibits to Plaintiff's Statement of Disputed Facts in Resistance to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment (Wells v. Janssen and Diocese of Davenport, Scott County District Court, Law No. 101220, served 5/14/04) and Plaintiff's Statement of Disputed Facts in Resistance to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment (John Doe III v. Janssen, Bass, Geerts, and Diocese of Davenport, Scott County District Court, Law No. 101428, served 5/14/04). Dates of assignments drawn cautiously from Bishop William E. Franklin, "A Historical Accounting of Clergy Sexual Abuse of Minors and Action Taken Regarding Certain Priests" (Davenport, Iowa: Diocese of Davenport, February 25, 2004).

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. Information in the Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Bass's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory and other sources with allegations against Bass as they are reported in the media and detailed in legal documents. This assignment record is likely not a complete list of the allegations against Bass. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegations we report. It is our understanding that Bass has not admitted to any of the offenses with which he is charged, and we remind our readers that in the U.S. judicial system, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.

A Note on Nomenclature: We use the term "assignment records," instead of the more common "service records," because "service" is not an appropriate word for the activities of an abusive priest. Dioceses are often less than forthcoming about the activities of retired priests, but when we can determine those activities, we list them in these assignment records, particularly if they involve ministry. Retired priests remain under obedience to their bishop, and even the activities of laicized priests should be a concern to the diocese.

This assignment record was last updated on 10/27/04.