By Todd Ruger
The Catholic Diocese of Davenport mailed requests to defrock two priests for sexual misconduct to Vatican representatives this week, and three other requests should be sent next week, a diocese attorney said.
The requests start a canon law process that ends with a decision from the Vatican on whether to remove the men from the priesthood, the most severe penalty that could be inflicted on a priest, diocese officials have said.
Ann Green, member of the “Spiritual Healing Team” at Sts. Philip and James Parish in Grand Mound, said it is important for the priests to be defrocked because they should not be able to hold the title of priest.
“I don’t think that’s fair to the men who are working so hard to do the job they signed up to do,” said Green. She is the wife of Donald Green, who has sued the diocese over alleged sexual abuse that he says occurred when he was a young boy at that parish by the Rev. James Janssen.
Ann Green also called the possible defrocking important on a personal healing level because it means priests are seeing consequences for their actions, she said.
“That’s incredibly healing,” for victims, she said.
Bishop William Franklin announced in a February letter to the diocese that the Diocesan Review Board recommended five priests be defrocked for sexual misconduct — Janssen, Francis Bass, Frank R. Martinez Jr., Richard Poster and William F. Wiebler.
Diocese officials sent requests for Janssen and Poster this week, diocese attorney Rand Wonio said. Requests for Wiebler and Bass are ready to be sent but require the signature of Franklin, who has been at a conference in Colorado all week. Those request will be mailed Monday, Wonio said.
The request to defrock Martinez requires finishing touches and will be sent by Tuesday at the latest, he said.
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 nearly four months since Franklin’s announcement in February, diocese attorneys and canon lawyers worked on the requests for defrocking, Wonio said.
A week ago, the spiritual healing team at the Grand Mound parish expressed concern that the diocese was stalling on the requests.
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. He 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.
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