Bishop Accountability
  Paperwork to Defrock Priests Still in Davenport

By Todd Ruger
Quad-City Times
June 7, 2004

More than three months after announcing plans to ask the Vatican to defrock five priests for sexual misconduct, the Catholic Diocese of Davenport has not sent the appropriate paperwork to Rome, a diocese attorney confirmed Monday.

Vicar General Monsignor Michael Morrissey said last week during a court deposition that Bishop William Franklin has not completed all paperwork for the defrocking request of the Rev. James Janssen, according to attorneys involved in lawsuits against the diocese alleging sexual abuse by priests.

Diocese attorney Rand Wonio said Monday none of the five requests have been completed or sent.

That’s causing concern for the “spiritual healing team” at Sts. Philip and James Parish in Grand Mound. Franklin attended Mass at the parish in January after hearing that parish members were concerned about the diocese’s response to the sexual abuse allegations.

“We’re feeling that this issue is being stalled,” said Ann Green, member of the team and wife of Donald Green, who has sued the diocese over alleged sexual abuse by Janssen at the church as a young boy.

“It’s not even out the door from Davenport,” she said of Janssen’s defrocking request.

Wonio said he is to blame for the holdup because he needed to supply information from the 16 sexual abuse lawsuits facing the diocese but has been too busy with legal motions in those cases.

“There are a number of things that need to be done to put the finishing touches on all the applications,” Wonio said, adding they should be completed by the end of this week.

“We don’t want these applications to the Vatican to fail for lack of sufficient information,” he said, so the diocese wanted to include affidavits from the plaintiffs in the lawsuits.

“What we’ve got now certainly should be sufficient,” he added.

Franklin announced in a February letter to the diocese that the Diocesan Review Board recommended five priests be removed from the priesthood — Janssen, Francis Bass, Frank R. Martinez Jr., Richard Poster and William F. Wiebler .

Janssen, Bass and Wiebler have been named in sexual abuse lawsuits against the diocese, and Poster is serving a federal prison sentence for possessing child pornography on a diocese computer during December 2002.

In 1986, Martinez appeared to initiate sexual activity with a minor who fled and sought help, according to the diocesan letter. He has been on leave for personal reasons since 1987.

In the letter, Franklin said “requests are being sent,” and “information is being presented” to the Vatican regarding the defrocking requests.

Since then, diocese attorneys and canon lawyers have worked on the applications, Wonio said Monday.

Franklin and other leaders of the diocese do not have the authority to defrock a priest on their own and do not know how long that process could take, church officials said.

Ann Green said about two dozen parish members have attended the meetings of the spiritual healing team since May 24, including sitting in at court proceedings last week.

“We are just addressing the sexual abuse crisis and its impact on our church,” she said.


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