Bishop Accountability
  Accuser Takes Aim at Bishop Letter/Response

By Kay Luna
Quad-City Times
February 3, 2004

GRAND MOUND, Iowa — Don Green expected the Catholic bishop’s letter to include words of hope and comfort for his fellow parishioners in Grand Mound, who he said are deeply hurt about reports of sex abuse by priests.

Instead, the 37-year-old DeWitt man said he read the Most Rev. William Franklin’s recent letter to the people of Ss. Philip and James Catholic Church as a critical, personal “attack” against him and his family.

Green, a soft-spoken lifelong Catholic, filed a lawsuit in Clinton County in November against the Diocese of Davenport and the retired Rev. James Janssen, claiming the priest fondled him as a boy while he attended the Grand Mound church.

The parish council recently reached out to support Green as a church member in need by writing a letter to the bishop, asking the diocese to respond to parishioners’ needs and help heal the victims of abuse by priests.

Franklin made a surprise visit Jan. 18 to the church, where a member of the council read the letter aloud and asked for the bishop’s response. He stayed and discussed the matter with parishioners, then formally responded with a letter dated Saturday.

The letter starts out by saying, “We want the same goal.”

“I pray for the much-needed healing in our church and work towards that goal,” the bishop writes.

In the second paragraph, the bishop turns to Green’s alleged sex abuse and how the diocese has helped the family as they “proceeded in their recovery process.” He said Green came to the diocese in 1996 with his report that he had been sexually abused by Janssen.

The letter states the diocese responded by meeting with the Green family several times and sending Janssen for counseling at the Greens’ request.

Franklin also ordered Janssen in April 1996 to cease any public activity of a church nature, the letter states.

“We responded with compassion and with action,” Franklin writes. “The diocese provided assistance for Mr. Green and his family ever since.”

The bishop said he did not previously speak publicly about the Greens “out of a desire to respect their privacy.”

“When Mr. Green filed a lawsuit for money damages, it was my understanding that it was inappropriate to publicly discuss the facts of that case,” Franklin writes.

Green said he could not understand why the bishop chose to respond to a letter written by the church council, discussing the hurts of the parishioners, with “what I feel is an attack on me and my family.”

“It’s hurtful to me that the bishop felt the need to include information about me in a letter that should have been addressing the needs of my fellow parishioners,” Green said. “This letter is another illustration of the lack of pastoral care being provided for victims by the diocese.”

Green’s voice turned emotional when he talked about his church family and how he feels “such incredible spiritual and emotional support” from them. He did not know the church council planned to write a letter to the diocese about the issue, and he was “pleasantly surprised” to hear about it, he said.

Green said he and his family were in church Jan. 18 when the bishop arrived, but “graciously exited” soon after.

“I’m so blessed to be a member of Sts. Philip and James Church,” he said, his voice breaking.

Green’s lawsuit claims Janssen began abusing him in 1982. It claims the diocese knew about the abuse, or should have known, and failed to take action against Janssen.

Instead, Janssen was allowed to continue in a “position of power and authority within the diocese,” the lawsuit states.

Green said he filed the lawsuit because of the way the diocese and Janssen have responded to previous lawsuits about alleged sexual abuse of minors in the church.

After holding in such a dark secret for so long, Green said speaking out publicly about the abuse has been a relief in a way.

In other ways, it has made him even more resolved to make sure the diocese never allows a child in the church to suffer such abuse again, he said.

Green said the bishop’s letter states that he intends to restore trust and foster healing in the church.

“His goal will be difficult to accomplish as long as the bishop continues to be harshly critical of victims,” Green said.

The bishop’s letter urges parishioners to keep in touch with the diocese, either through their pastors or by direct communication.

Franklin also again apologized for all the harm resulting from sexual abuse by priests.

“In Grand Mound, I see your pain. I also see how you are coming together as a strong faith-filled community to support one another in this grief and pain.”

The bishop said he prays for the victims and their families “who have been so sadly hurt by one of our priests.”

“Ultimately, it is by working together, in union with God’s grace, that we will be able to move forward in the years to come,” he said.


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