Bishop Accountability
  Davenport Diocese Starts Layoffs After Judge's Ruling

The Hawk Eye
October 23, 2004

DAVENPORT — Deep layoffs have begun at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport after a judge Thursday declined to delay a trial for the first of several lawsuits dealing with sexual abuse allegations dating back to the 1950s.

On Friday, Bishop William E. Franklin said staff at the diocese pastoral center will be reduced to 18. Two years ago, Franklin said the center had 44 on its staff.

"Let me be clear that these dismissals are not the fault of the employees," the bishop said. "It is also not the fault of the victims who have suffered for many years.

"I pray for all those affected by the deplorable acts of sexual abuse," he continued. "I pray for the victims, the people of the diocese and for my staff who have served me and the diocese for many years."

Under Iowa law, unemployment insurance is not available to church employees, Franklin said, making an appeal for parishioners to help the terminated staff members.

Franklin said the diocese's pastoral center depends on a portion of an investment fund to provide services to parishioners in southeast Iowa. He said the diocesan portion of the fund will be depleted to compensate victims, necessitating the layoffs.

On Thursday, District Judge C.H. Pelton denied the diocese request that a Nov. 1 trial be delayed another month to allow it to negotiate with its insurance company and lawyers for 38 men who say they were abused by priests when they were minors.

But in a six–page ruling, Pelton said church officials did not have a solid reason for asking for more time in the case, which was filed almost a year and a half ago.

Church officials say they have ruled out going to trial but don't want the settlement with victims to exhaust their assets, limiting payments to those who may step forward in a second wave of claims.

Franklin has said the diocese may be forced into bankruptcy.


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