Diocese Can Show Compassion for Public
October 7, 2004
Father David Brownfield demonstrated the qualities shared by every priest
we’ve met from the Davenport diocese: compassion, courage and honesty.
Brownfield, of Grand Mound, spoke up publicly when he saw a defrocked
colleague inexplicably attending a workshop for people involved with the
care of foster children.
James Janssen was kicked out of the priesthood July 28 by Pope John Paul
II following 10 civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by Janssen. The diocese
acknowledges Janssen was pulled from parishes for past sexual abuse allegations.Yet
there Janssen was, mingling at a Davenport meeting with people whose job
it is to care for the most vulnerable children in our society.
Since the diocese years ago decided to protect rather than prosecute alleged
pedophiles, there is nothing anyone can do. Had Janssen decided to take
his interest in foster children to another state, it would have been likely
people there would have appreciated his interest.
Except for one thing: The courage of his former parishioners to publicly
Because they didn’t sit still for the diocese’ complacency,
civil suits exist exposing the allegations that led to Janssen being booted
from the Catholic church. Do a Google search on Janssen and the first
hits reveal news accounts of the lawsuits. It’s likely now that
even cursory background checks in any state would find those accounts
and raise the appropriate red flags.
We know the diocese remains in a tough spot. Janssen is an elderly, seemingly
kind acquaintance to diocese staff. He still lives in a diocese-owned
apartment, though has been asked to pay his own rent since losing his
collar. And he hasn’t been convicted of anything. The compassion
inherent in Brownfield and the priests we know certainly must and should
influence the diocese thoughts about this matter.
This week’s episode suggests a new outlet for that compassion: the
Defrocking apparently isn’t enough to keep suspected pedophiles
away from interactions with children. Even if Janssen’s intentions
were benign, his presence is legitimately upsetting to those who say they
are his victims and to those trying to protect children from people just
Some say state law should be changed to track priests who avoided prosecution,
yet remain a threat. That shouldn’t have to happen.
The diocese, we’re sure, recognizes that as Janssen’s former
employer and current landlord, it retains an obligation to protect the