Bishop Accountability
  Seventh Man Accuses Diocese

By Kay Luna
Quad-City Times
February 5, 2004

CLINTON, Iowa — Another Clinton County man has filed a lawsuit accusing a retired Catholic priest of sexually abusing him as a child, including incidents at the Delmar church rectory and in a hotel room during an out-of-town trip.

The man known only as John Doe VII claims in civil court documents filed this week that the retired Rev. Francis Bass of the Catholic Diocese of Davenport repeatedly engaged in “improper, illegal and immoral sexual contact” with him as a minor child, starting in 1984.

As in similar lawsuits against the diocese, the plaintiff claims church leaders failed to take action against the priest, even though at least one complaint had been made to another priest in the diocese about Bass’ sex abuse as early as 1960.

The suit further accuses the diocese and its priests of a conspiracy to conceal or misrepresent information about Bass’ sexual conduct.

“The conduct of the defendants toward the plaintiff was so outrageous as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and is to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the lawsuit states.

In a written statement issued Thursday, the diocese confirmed the lawsuit “alleges sexual misconduct occurring 20 years ago.” The diocese said Bass has been retired since 1992 and does not have any diocesan duties, but officials are reviewing the complaint.

This is the 12th lawsuit filed against the diocese in Clinton and Scott counties since May, many of which were initiated under the legal representation of Quad-City lawyer Craig Levien.

The newest lawsuit claims the sex abuse happened while the plaintiff was a child attending St. Anne’s Parish in Long Grove and St. Patrick’s Parish in Delmar with his family. He attended catechism classes and served for many years as an altar boy at the churches.

The man states in court documents that Bass “sought and gained trust and confidence” from his parents as a friend, spiritual guide, pastor, confessor and priest. That’s how Bass gained the boys’ parents’ permission for him to participate in counseling and other activities “to spend alone time” together, the lawsuit states.

“Plaintiff was conditioned to comply with Bass’ direction and to look to him as an authority on matters spiritual, moral, ethical and temporal,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit asserts that the diocese knew, or should have known, about the molestation when it occurred and “intentionally or negligently” failed to take action against the priest. It claims the diocese never investigated Bass’ actions, never defrocked him, never reported him to law enforcement, never warned members of the diocese about him, never disciplined him, never documented or maintained records about his abuse or took any other action.

“At least one complaint had been made to another priest of the Davenport diocese of improper sexual activity of defendant Bass with a boy in the Davenport diocese as early as 1960, but no disciplinary actions were taken against him to prevent the sexual abuse of the plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.

Instead, Bass was permitted to serve as diocesan director of vocations and was placed on the priest personnel board.

Court documents show the victim was “unable to discover wrongful conduct and the sexual abuse” until about 2003.

The diocese has come under fire by parishioners who do not believe the church is doing enough to heal the hurt such abuse has left behind. Diocese officials recently announced the diocese soon will issue a report about its investigation of the past 50 years of files concerning sex abuse complaints involving priests.

The diocese also vowed to strengthen victim outreach by hiring someone from outside the church to serve as victim assistance coordinator and named another outsider to investigation allegations of abuse.

Bishop William Franklin and a council of priests in the diocese have apologized for the pain such sex abuse has caused.


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