Bishop Accountability
  Crowley Helps Victims Confront Abuse

By Mary Rueter, Managing Editor
DeWitt Observer
April 10, 2004

As the seasons turn to spring and many a man’s fancy turns to golf, Tom Crowley longs to hit the links with his cronies. But for this year anyway, Crowley has a more important task at hand. He has been named victim assistance coordinator for the Davenport Catholic Diocese.

He doesn’t like his title — he feels it has a negative image — but he feels strongly about his role in helping victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests find the help they need in order to cope with what may be decades of anger, hurt and sometimes even guilt.

The victims’ anger comes from not having had any control over what happened to them; the hurt from betrayal by men of the cloth whom they were taught to trust; and the guilt, perhaps for carrying a secret that may have allowed others to fall victim to the same abuse.

Crowley, a kind, grandfatherly figure, has come out of retirement because he feels so strongly about the need for there to be an intermediary who is not a threat and who is not directly connected with the Catholic Church. (He is contracted by the Davenport Diocese, however.)

He established and operated an employees assistance program at Alcoa for many years before his retirement and is a certified employee assistance professional although his educational background is in business.

“I’m a non-threatening person,” he says. Indeed, his gentle demeanor and soft voice evoke trust and an atmosphere of safety.

“I listen and offer solutions,” Crowley explains. “There’s no magic in what I do. I have nothing to do with the judicial side.

Hardest Part Is Asking for Help

“The toughest thing a person can do is ask for help,” he says. “I offer a safe, non-threatening environment. I listen. I try to help by getting them counseling.”

Crowley can offer solutions in the form of contacts with various therapists. “I’ll even call and make the appointment for them if they want me to,” he says. Later, he follows up with a phone conversation as his way of confirming they’ve sought help.

But, he finds, “in this world, if a person has the guts to step forward, they usually will follow through.”

The diocese picks up the bill for any professional help a victim may request.

Among his other duties, Crowley also is looking at providing education about sexual abuse for parishes and forming groups for therapy and self-help.

“The parishes have not let us know their needs yet,” he says, so those plans still are in the formulative stage. Regardless, Crowley adds, “(The diocese) will be providing the tools for whatever they need.”

Awareness Is Key to Helping

Crowley says it is hard to know how many victims of sexual abuse by priests over the past 50 years are “out there.” One thing is certain, however. “The more we do, the more it opens up awareness for people — the awareness they are not alone.

“Some are coming forward after 45 years” he notes, “but there absolutely is nothing wrong with that. It is much needed and is the reason we are here,” he stresses.

Those who seek Crowley’s services do not even need to tell him their story, he says. “All they have to do is ask for help, and I will provide it.” He says he does not file formal reports with the diocese unless a victim requests it, although he is mandated to report specific incidents.

“It’s like any other confidential situation,” Crowley declares. He does not have a “pipeline” to the bishop although he does report to his predecessor, Irene Pryor Loftus, who is chancellor of the Davenport Diocese.

Services Are Being Used

Crowley has been serving as victim assistance coordinator since Feb. 1 and recently moved into an office in the Professional Arts Building in Davenport — a more neutral and less intimidating setting than an office at the diocese.

While he hesitates to say how many victims have contacted him for help, he says, “Let’s just say people have used my services.

“I want to be close-mouthed about it. I don’t want to hurt anyone,” he says.

Nevertheless, Crowley expects his workload to be very heavy for the first six months. “I’m hoping everyone who comes to me will have an opportunity to get help. It’s sad. I really don’t know what to expect.”

Neither does he have an idea what another six months will bring. But he hopes in four or five months, he will know whether his work is making an impact. “I firmly believe it won’t go away tomorrow.”

Crowley believes the program is a very positive thing. “I’m excited or I wouldn’t be doing it,” he says, but he gives much of the credit to the victims who have been able to come forward.

“The positive part of being a victim is dealing with the situation and seeking help to bring it to a head. When people know there is a solution for them, they will start acting on it,” he believes.

“When people bring me a problem, I try to show them avenues to deal with that problem.

So far the feedback is all positive.

Still, there is a sense there is much more for Crowley to do.

“The acts (by the priests) were wrong. We’ve learned a hell of a lesson here. It will take a long time to get trust back.”

Sidebar to above article:
Help Is Available for Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests

Tom Crowley, a certified employee assistance program professional, has been hired by the Davenport Catholic Diocese to aid the victims of sexual abuse by priests.

In February, the diocese released a report indicating 65 allegations of sexual abuse have been made against 20 priests and two lay members of the diocese in the past 50 years. Thirty-nine of the charges are attributed to three priests, including James Janssen, who formerly served parishes in Grand Mound and Sugar Creek, among others, and Francis Bass, who formerly served parishes in Delmar and Sugar Creek, among others.

To date, 13 lawsuits have been filed in district court, naming present and former priests of the diocese. None of the accused currently is involved in active ministry, and five — including Janssen and Bass — have been recommended to the Vatican for defrocking.

Crowley is available to help victims get counseling and/or therapy to deal with the resulting effects of their abuse. The cost will be borne by the diocese.

Crowley is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week by phone at 563-349-5002. If he is unavailable to take a call immediately, he says he will respond as soon as possible. Victims also may contact him by e-mail at or by writing P.O. Box 232, Bettendorf, IA 52722-0004.

“Programs like this work because of availability,” he acknowledges. “When people decide they want help, they want it now.”

Included with the above article: Call 563-349-5002


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