|Iowa Supreme Court
Denies Diocese of Davenport’s Appeal
By Todd Ruger
The Iowa Supreme Court has denied a request from the Diocese of Davenport to appeal a district judge’s order that it provide records of sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests for the past 50 years.
The denial means 10 men who have filed civil lawsuits against the diocese can get information on how it treated priests accused of sexual abuse, attorney Craig Levien of Davenport said.
“It’s just an agreement that the court order is correct,” added Levien, who represents those men in 10 lawsuits filed in Scott and Clinton counties.
Diocese attorneys say they plan to ask Clinton County District Judge C.H. Pelton to reconsider his Nov. 26 civil court order.
They say his order requires them to provide Levien with a list of victims’ names, thereby forcing church leaders to reveal the identities of people who expected their names to remain confidential when they came forward with sex abuse complaints.
“If that’s how it ends up, we’re going to have fewer people coming forward looking for help because they know their name will go out to other people,” diocese attorney Rand Wonio of Davenport said.
Pelton’s order states that the names of victims listed in diocese records would remain shielded from the public, but the plaintiffs and their attorneys would be privy to that information for evidence-gathering purposes.
Levien said there have been similar orders entered in civil cases in other states, including one in Boston where the order was instrumental to its progress.
Also, Levien said he could contact victims listed by the Davenport diocese to see whether they want to cooperate and serve as witnesses.
Meanwhile, a Clinton County man known only as “John Doe,” who filed a civil lawsuit against the diocese and the Rev. James Janssen, a retired priest, remains anonymous in court proceedings.
“We’re also asking the court to put together some method by which we can investigate these claims,” Wonio said. “We can’t go out to one of these towns ... and ask people if they know ‘John Doe.’ ”
The lawsuits, including seven with plaintiffs identified only as John Doe, allege sexual abuse by priests from 20 to 50 years ago.
They claim the diocese knew of sexual abuse by priests but intentionally or negligently failed to take action to ensure the abuse would not occur again while they were employed by the church.
Pelton has been assigned to preside over all lawsuits filed against the diocese in Scott and Clinton counties that allege sexual abuse.
The diocese has announced it will issue a public report detailing allegations of sexual abuse by priests over the past 50 years once an internal review of personnel files is completed.
“We want to give that information to the (members of the) diocese
anyway,” Wonio said.
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