Bishop Accountability
  Lawsuits Filed Against Priest, Diocese
Claims Are 8th, 9th Recorded in Iowa This Year Alleging Abuse

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
October 7, 2003

Two more lawsuits were filed in Iowa last week alleging sexual abuse by Catholic priests, as the church scandal increasingly moves into the state's courtroom.

The lawsuits against the Rev. George McFadden and the Sioux City Catholic Diocese are the eighth and ninth to be filed against Iowa Catholic officials this year.

Five lawsuits have been filed against priests in the Davenport Diocese. Also, a Sioux City man and his sister sued McFadden and the Sioux City Diocese earlier this year.

Lawyers involved in the cases said they expect more lawsuits to be filed.

"Many victims don't recall their abuse until something triggers the memory, and sometimes news reports can do that," said Roxanne Barton Conlin, a Des Moines attorney who has filed two lawsuits against the Davenport Diocese alleging sexual abuse by priests.

Dale Frank and Keith Frank, Sioux City-area brothers in their 40s, allege in lawsuits filed last week that McFadden first forced them to perform a sex act against their will and later coerced them to engage in sex acts when they were altar boys and students at St. Francis Catholic grade school. They accuse the diocese of knowing that McFadden was an abuser and of moving him from parish to parish.

The lawsuits claim both men were profoundly affected by the abuse, and now suffer from anxiety attacks, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, loss of trust and withdrawal from others, including family members.

Keith Frank additionally names Catholic Charities in the lawsuit, accusing it of professional negligence. Frank said that when he sought counseling from the organization, he was encouraged to repress any memories of sexual abuse and "put this behind you."

McFadden, 80, served in six western Iowa parishes from 1953 to 1992, including churches in Jefferson and Sioux City. Sioux City Diocese officials in 2002 said the priest retired in 1991 after a sex abuse complaint. The diocese later admitted that after the 1991 complaint, McFadden remained in the ministry at Sioux City's largest church for nearly a decade.

McFadden has admitted committing "harmful acts," but never has made a public apology. He continues to receive a pension. About two dozen people have told The Des Moines Register that the priest abused them as children.

In response to the Franks' lawsuit, Jim Wharton, Sioux City Diocese communications director, reiterated the diocese's contention that the church took action in 1991 when it received the first complaint against McFadden.

"When that complaint was received, he was sent to treatment and required to retire," Wharton said. "The Diocese of Sioux City remains committed to providing counseling, spiritual assistance and other services for victims and their families."

R. Scott Rhinehart of Sioux City, attorney for the Franks, said he is encouraging other victims to seek legal recourse.

"We know there are others out there," Rhinehart said. "To those victims: Now is the time to come forward. Now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to face the demons that haunt them. It is time for the victims to step out into the light. The church has kept them in the dark too long."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.