Bishop Accountability
  Davenport Diocese to Detail Child Abuse

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
January 29, 2004

The Davenport Catholic Diocese plans to issue a public report on child sexual abuse by clergy over the past 50 years, following similar reports by Iowa's three other dioceses.

Davenport also soon will take disciplinary action against certain priests, diocese attorney Rand Wonio said Wednesday. He declined to name the priests or specify the action.

However, in an interview published Wednesday in the (De Witt) Observer, Davenport Bishop William E. Franklin said that paperwork required by the Vatican to defrock the Rev. James Janssen has been initiated.

Janssen has been named in eight of 11 lawsuits filed against the diocese by men who say they were sexually abused by priests as children.

The report will explain why in April 1996 Franklin ordered Janssen removed from all priestly duties and informed other diocese priests of his order, Wonio said.

Diocese officials are examining the personnel files of every priest who ever worked in the diocese, Wonio said.

The survey was requested of all U.S. Catholic dioceses by a bishops group. Davenport missed a June deadline for the survey because of a legal dispute about the files.

Diana Scott of Grand Mound, a member of Saints Philip and James parish council that recently wrote the bishop asking for information about allegations of abuse in their parish, was happy to learn the information would be released.

"I'm very pleased," Scott said.

Wonio would not speculate about how the revelations and sanctions would affect the lawsuits against the diocese or the priests named in them: Janssen, the Rev. Francis Bass, the Rev. Martin Diamond, the Rev. Drake Shafer and the Rev. Anthony Geerts.

Craig Levien, a Davenport attorney representing many of the plaintiffs, said he's glad the diocese will publish information about the nature and extent of childhood sex abuse in the diocese.

"It is curious as to why the bishop would not participate in the (national bishops') survey which asked for this information and the diocese has chosen to do it themselves," Levien said. "People should understand that regardless of what statistics are released by the diocese, childhood sexual abuse is a grossly underreported offense. Any totals of the number of victims has got to be questioned unless a significant outreaching investigation is conducted."

The diocese has asked the Iowa Supreme Court to reverse a ruling by Clinton County District Judge C.H. Pelton, who ordered it to turn over 50 years of documents about abusive priests to Levien. The high court has not said whether or not it will consider the case.


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