Diocese Could Learn from Others' Responses

Quad-City Times
September 18, 2004,1035433

Our hope and prayer is that episodes of sexual abuse by Davenport diocese priests are rare occurrences of the past and the church properly regards them for what they are: crimes against children, not spiritual or personnel matters.

When new allegations occur, it hurts even more for faithful church members and the rest of the community whose experience with the diocese mainly reflects a strong tradition of faith, community service and education.

So it is bitterly disappointing that more allegations surface and the church and some prosecutors still seem reluctant to act as if these are felonies. The diocese learned in July 2003 of a new allegation against priest Paul Deyo and immediately reported it to authorities in Iowa City. Johnson County Attorney J. Patrick White, for an unknown reason, waited a year to announce a formal investigation. The diocese waited a year to notify parishioners. It still has declined to tell investigators the victim’s name, claiming the man asked that police not be involved.

That may be the case. But the diocese has squandered its credibility on these matters over the last decade by behaving in ways that would make them co-conspirators if this were any other felony or involved any other organization. The diocese practice of moving, rather than prosecuting, admitted pedophiles threatens the public. Friday’s editions of the Times disclosed that former Quad-City priest Rev. William Wiebler is living near a St. Louis elementary school. The diocese sent Wiebler to that city for treatment when he admitted sexually abusing children. We’d like to think that at age 72, Wiebler no longer is a threat. But Thursday’s editions reported the arrest of an 84-year-old Davenport man for child sexual abuse. That man isn’t a priest. He wasn’t sent to St. Louis. He went to jail first and now faces trial.

If a litany of sex abuse reports originated from within a police agency, a social service agency or God forbid, a public school, there would be no delay to investigate new allegations and little tolerance for the secrecy that continues to hurt victims.

Just two years ago, Family Resources, Inc., a Quad-City social service agency, reacted decisively and publicly when the director of their Summit Academy faced allegations of improperly touching teen boys. Like the diocese, Family Resources now faces a series of “John Doe” civil lawsuits filed by victims who wish to remain anonymous.

That’s where the similarities end. Unlike any diocese priest, the perpetrator in these cases is serving a 37-year prison term.


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