Pope Defrocks Davenport Priest

By Associated Press, carried by Des Moines Register
September 23, 2004

DAVENPORT, Ia. - A former Roman Catholic priest facing several sexual abuse lawsuits has been defrocked by Pope John Paul II, the Davenport diocese announced today.

Bishop William Franklin learned Monday that the action was taken in James Janssen's case on July 28, diocesean spokesman Dave Montgomery said.

Franklin met with Jansen and informed him of the decision. The pope's action does not allow for appeal.

Janssen retired in 1990 after 10 years at Sts. Philip and James parishes in Grand Mound. In 1996, Franklin barred him from any further public church activity. Janssen spent much of his nearly 40-year career at parishes in eastern Iowa.

He was first placed on indefinite leave in 1956 after claims of sexual misconduct arose, but was allowed to return to parish work the following year after a doctor told church officials Janssen was "not likely to fall into past errors."

It wasn't until 1988 when a plaintiff in lawsuit wrote a letter to the bishop that diocese officials learned of other allegations.

Janssen served as pastor of a parish commonly knows as Sugar Creek from 1967 to 1979. He also served at St. Joseph in Fort Madison from 1961 to 1967.

He was among five priests the Davenport diocese had asked the Vatican to defrock.

Janssen is a defendant in eight lawsuits filed by men claiming they were abused. In court filings, Janssen has denied the allegations.

Franklin accepted a review board's recommendation in February that Janssen be defrocked. The act of being defrocked, also called laicization, officially returns an ordained person to the status of a lay person.

Janssen is no longer under the jurisdiction of the bishop.

Janssen currently lives at St. Vincent Center, a residence for retired priests at the diocese. He will be allowed to continue to pay rent and live there, diocese officials said.

Janssen receives neither a paycheck nor financial assistance from the diocese, but is entitled to his retirement benefits, church officials said.

Franklin again apologized to the victims of the abuse.

"I continue to pray for healing and hope that our request and the Holy Father's decision will help facilitate the healing process," he said.


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