Defrocked Priest Attends Foster Parent Training

Associated Press, carried by the Des Moines Register
October 7, 2004

James Janssen, a former Davenport priest who was removed from the priesthood for allegations of sexual abuse of children, has attended a training session for foster and adoptive parents.

"Why James Janssen would be interested in that type of training is beyond me, but it certainly isn't a good thing as far as we're concerned," Davenport diocese attorney Rand Wonio said Wednesday.

The Rev. David Brownfield of Grand Mound, another diocese priest who has cared for children as a licensed foster parent, attended the meeting and said the instructor repeatedly referred to Janssen as Reverend while addressing the class of about 12.

He reported that Janssen - who faced two suspensions for treatment in the 1950s and 10 sex abuse lawsuits in two states since May 2003 - attended the training held Saturday by the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport said.

"I don't think the trainer knew who he was," Brownfield said. "I think it shows the importance of our average citizen being involved in reporting suspicious situations to the appropriate authority."

Janssen, who was removed from the priesthood July 28 by Pope John Paul II, has denied all sexual abuse allegations in court records.

Brownfield - who presides over Masses at Sts. Philip and James in Grand Mound - said lawmakers should find a way to track priests who have been accused of sexual abuse.

"The diocese can't prevent Janssen from going to meetings, nor can we throw him in a jail or monastery," Wonio said.

"The diocese's hands are tied, from having control over Janssen," he said.

Janssen is not on state records as being a licensed foster parent, the Iowa Department of Human Services said.

The executive director of a national sexual abuse Support group, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said Janssen attending the class shows that sexual abuse by priests is not ancient history.

"It suggests to me (Janssen) wants to be around kids, and especially vulnerable kids such as foster kids," David Clohessy said.

"While it's not illegal for him to attend the class and there were no children there, it's still troublesome," he said.

Craig Levien, the Davenport attorney representing men who accuse Janssen of sexual abuse, said IFAPA got fooled just like parents got fooled.

"Had the lawsuits not been filed and Bishop William Franklin not given a February 2004 report of Janssen's behavior, the former priest's actions wouldn't have been publicly known," Levien said.

"(Janssen) could have pursued the chance of becoming a foster parent," he said.

IFAPA executive director Lynhon Stout said Janssen was allowed to register for the session because he was on a list of the organizations members.

While no children attended the training session, such sessions usually are reserved for parents who are already state-licensed foster or adoptive parents.

"I would question why he even attended," Stout said, adding that IFAPA members can include supporters of the organization who pay fees.

"Our records would have indicated he was a reverend," Stout said Wednesday after being informed of Janssen's removal from the priesthood due to sexual abuse allegations. "He is now deleted (from the member list)."

Wonio said diocese Chancellor Irene Prior Loftus is looking into the situation and contacting IFAPA.

"For (Janssen) to pass himself off as a priest would certainly seem to fly in the face of the pope's decision," Wonio said Wednesday.

"The class addressed issues faced by foster parents, from giving the parents lists of items the children would need to parenting practices to use in situations ranging from sexual acting out to picking their nose to overeating," Brownfield said.

"It's a rather boring workshop if you're not a foster parent," he said.


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