Bishop Accountability
  New Lawsuit Filed against Davenport Diocese

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
May 13, 2004

A new lawsuit against the Davenport Roman Catholic Diocese alleges that church officials were aware of an abusive priest's improper activity with boys before 1956, but still moved him from parish to parish without sanctions.

John Gregory Schildgen of Texas filed the 16th priest-abuse lawsuit against the Davenport diocese on Monday in Scott County District Court.

Schildgen alleges that the Rev. James Janssen, who has been named in eight other lawsuits, began sexually abusing him in 1960. Janssen has denied all abuse allegations in court documents.

Schildgen's lawsuit alleges that church officials received specific complaints about Janssen's sexual misconduct in Newton from 1953 to 1956. Subsequently, the diocese sent Janssen to psychotherapy for his sexual problems.

Janssen was suspended from the priesthood for about 90 days in 1958 for sexual misconduct with a minor boy. But after his treatment and suspension, complaints were received in 1959 about Janssen improperly touching a 10-year-old boy, according to the lawsuit.

Schildgen's attorney, Craig Levien, represents several people who have sued the diocese alleging abuse. In November, Iowa District Judge C.H. Pelton ordered the diocese to turn over to him 50 years of church documents bearing information about abusive priests.

Although the diocese is still appealing the release of victims names to Levien, documents on Janssen and other priests were given to Levien and his clients.

Schildgen's lawsuit accuses church officials of negligence in failing to remove Janssen from the ministry and instead appointing him as pastor of eight additional Catholic churches until his retirement in 1990.

In a Feb. 25 news conference on the extent of child sexual abuse by clergy in the Davenport Diocese, Bishop William Franklin admitted that "it was clearly a mistake for Father Janssen to have been reassigned to any public ministry after his . . . suspension."

However, the diocese continues to defend itself in the lawsuits and has tried to have some of the lawsuits dismissed because the allegations are so old.

Tuesday, the diocese noted the Schildgen lawsuit alleges abuse that happened more than 40 years ago.


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