Bishop Accountability

Parishes to Learn about Allegations
Priest's other 'victims' asked to come forward

By Mike McWilliams
Iowa City Press-Citizen
August 25, 2004

Catholic church officials decided Tuesday to inform parishes of sex allegations tied to a priest accused of sexually abusing a boy in 1998 while serving at a Johnson County church.

Rand Wonio, lawyer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport, said the diocese will meet with the three parishes where the priest served "as soon as possible" to discuss how to best inform the public. In accordance with church policy regarding sex abuse, Wonio said details, including the name of the priest, will be kept confidential until the diocese meets with the parishes and other entities where the priest worked.

Bishop William Franklin, with the support of the diocese review board, made the decision to inform the parishes Tuesday.

"So people who were victims of this priest can come forward and start the healing process," Wonio said. As for the priest's identity: "It can't (be revealed) until we've met with the parishes and places where he's served."

Wonio said the alleged victim told another priest at the Johnson County church of the abuse. That priest then told the diocese, which offered counseling for the boy and called the Johnson County Attorney's office in July 2003.

However, since the victim has indicated he does not want to press charges, little to no criminal investigation had been done into the matter since last year. Until last week, Johnson County Attorney J. Patrick White said he had not heard of the allegation. Should White decide to proceed, it would be the first prosecution of a priest in Johnson County since 1989.

White has said he expects to make a decision on how to proceed with the current sexual abuse allegations in the next couple of weeks.

Although little is known about the accused priest, Wonio said he was not serving in a Johnson County parish when the allegation was reported to the diocese. The priest since has been placed on administrative leave and had no active ministry.

In 1989, the Rev. James Leu was arrested for sexual abuse of minors while assigned to St. Mary Church in Lone Tree. He pleaded guilty and received a two-year prison sentence. Leu has had no assignment since his release. The Diocesan Review Board recently reviewed his case and, in a recommendation sent to Rome, suggested that his status be maintained, diocese records show.

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