Bishop Accountability
  Diocese Leads Calif. Legal Challenge

By Todd Ruger
Quad-City Times
July 1, 2004

Attorneys for the Catholic Diocese of Davenport are leading a legal challenge of a California law that opened a one-year window during 2003 for lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has said it plans to join the Davenport Diocese in challenging the constitutionality of the law suspending the statute of limitations that normally applies to cases in California.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, called during a protest Wednesday in Los Angeles for a halt on donations to the archdiocese, SNAP executive director David Clohessy said.

In what has become a federal lawsuit, a Colorado man identified only as “John Doe” filed a lawsuit in California that alleges the Rev. James Janssen, a priest in the Davenport Diocese, abused him while they were there on trip in 1968, diocese attorney Rand Wonio said.

The lawsuit, filed on the last day of the one-year period, was transferred to federal courts because it involves California law, a Colorado resident and an Iowa diocese, Wonio explained.

The Davenport Diocese filed a counterclaim in June, arguing that the law suspending the statute of limitations is “extreme legislation which targeted the Catholic Church.” The diocese claims the law violated its right to due process, religion clauses in the First Amendment and other constitutional rights.

SNAP said Wednesday that the Los Angeles Archdiocese is spending diocesan money in an effort to escape hundreds of similar lawsuits it faces by “using a horrific Iowa case, involving a serial predator who abused for decades despite repeated and well-documented warnings to church leaders.”

Janssen is named as a defendant in nine of the 15 other lawsuits filed against the Davenport Diocese in Iowa courts. He has denied all accusations in court documents. Janssen has been removed from public ministry by the diocese.

An Iowa district judge is deciding whether two of those cases should be thrown out because they are so old. That argument failed to procure a dismissal in one Lee County case.

(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)


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