Q-C Area Priest
By Todd Ruger
August 19, 2004
A priest in the Davenport Catholic Diocese has been restricted from active duty pending an internal investigation into a current allegation of sexual abuse, an attorney for the diocese said Wednesday.
Davenport attorney Rand Wonio said a man told the diocese last year that a priest sexually abused him in Johnson County during 1998. The diocese will not identify the accused priest until the completion of its investigation, in accordance with the diocese policies on sexual abuse, Wonio added.
The criminal statute of limitations on the allegation has not expired, meaning it could be criminally prosecuted in court, the diocese said.
The incident was reported to an assistant in the Johnson County Attorney’s office during July 2003, even though the man “who made the report did not wish any criminal charges to be filed,” Wonio said.
“Nor did he want his name to be given to anyone, not even family,” he said, adding that the diocese is paying for the attorney who represents the man.
The diocese review board — which ordered the investigation — will meet soon and to make a recommendation regarding the allegation to Bishop William Franklin, he said.
Wonio said there is one more person for diocese investigator Jim Sweeney to contact before the investigation is completed.
The Iowa law on statute of limitations requires a criminal charge of sexual abuse of a minor to be brought within 10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday.
On charges such as lascivious acts with a child or indecent contact, the statute of limitations is three years.
Johnson County Attorney J. Patrick White said Wednesday that he had not heard about the report of the incident being made to his office.
White said he recently was faxed one page from a July 9 deposition of diocese Chancellor Irene Prior Loftus in which she speaks about the incident.
The deposition was filed as part of a Scott County civil lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by priests.
“This is news to me,” White said. “If there was an abuse here, we’d certainly be interested in investigating that.”
While he is interested in “gathering information,” White said the idea of starting an investigation would be “wildly speculative at this point.”
Wonio said the diocese contacted the assistant in the Johnson County Attorney’s office who deals with sexual abuse crimes.
Davenport attorney Craig Levien filed the one page of Loftus’ deposition as part of a 41-page response to the diocese’s request to dismiss a sexual abuse lawsuit due to the age of the allegations.
Levien used the deposition as part of an argument that high-ranking officials in the diocese concealed sexual misconduct by priests, thereby hindering the ability of his client to file a timely lawsuit.
Not only did diocese officials hide allegations of sexual abuse from parishioners, but they also continue to hide information about the Johnson County allegation, he said.
“The diocese has kept secret the name of the priest and any findings of the investigation,” Levien said.
Levien added that he thought the diocese policy on sexual abuse includes disclosing that information to the public and parishioners so other victims might come forward.
Wonio said that Levien’s court filing twisted what was said by Loftus in an attempt to cast the diocese in a poor light.
“To say we’ve concealed anything in this case is incorrect,” Wonio said. “In fact, the diocese has gone the extra mile to do things right with the law, to do things right with the policies, to do things right with the victim.”
The diocese policy on sexual abuse, which took effect in June 2003, states that the diocese will refer information from cases of sexual abuse of minors to local authorities and deal with the community “as openly as possible.”
Matters under litigation, unsubstantiated allegations and information that an adult victim has asked to keep private are examples of circumstances necessitating confidentiality, the policy further states.
Todd Ruger can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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