|Diocese Begins Cutting
Staff As Trial Date Nears
By Todd Ruger
October 23rd, 2004
The Catholic Diocese of Davenport started a severe reduction in staff and services at its headquarters Friday to help compensate victims of sexual abuse by priests, Bishop William Franklin said.
Over the next few months, the Pastoral Center will reduce to 18 a staff that numbered 44 two years ago, the bishop said in a news release sent Friday afternoon.
“Let me be clear that these dismissals are not the fault of the employees,” he added. “It is also not the fault of the victims who have suffered for many years.”
The diocesan portion of an investment fund — which provides a portion of operating expenses for services to the parishioners of southeast Iowa — will be depleted to compensate victims, he said.
“As a result, the Pastoral Center must reduce staff and services,” he wrote about the headquarters located at the diocese-owned St. Vincent’s Center, 2706 N. Gaines St., Davenport.
Franklin said the diocese continues to negotiate settlements with attorneys for about 40 people who allege sexual abuse by priests from 20 to 50 years ago.
The diocese said no decision has been made on filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which it said would occur if settlements couldn’t be reached before the first trial on the allegations starts Nov. 1.
A sense of sadness and uncertainty has settled on the chancery over the past few weeks, said Barb Arland-Fye, managing editor of The Catholic Messenger.
“It’s just like a family being separated,” she said.
Dan Ebener, the social action director for the Diocese of Davenport and long-time diocese employee, said he didn’t want to comment on the layoffs Friday night.
“It cuts too deep to talk right now,” he said.
Franklin said unemployment insurance is not available to church employees under state law, but he is doing what he can to help terminated staff make a transition to other employment with the least disruption to their lives.
A few staff members submitted resignations in the past weeks in anticipation of the staff reduction, he said.
“I pray for all those affected by the deplorable acts of sexual abuse,” he said. “I pray for the victims, the people of the diocese and for my staff who have served me and the diocese for many years.”
Investment funded services
In 2003, the diocese investment totalled $5.9 million in the fund, named Kingdom Co, according to an audited financial statement published in the Catholic Messenger last November, which included real estate, portfolios and other assets.
Another $2.5 million was invested in the fund that year by a group called St. Vincent’s Home, similarly named to the building housing the Pastoral Center, according to the statement.
Franklin said he has begun a search to relocate the Pastoral Center from the St. Vincent’s Center, a move he previously said would take place under a bankruptcy plan.
About a dozen priests who work at the center and retired priests — including three retired priests facing allegations of sexual abuse — will move to alternative housing, the diocese said.
Meeting space for the Spirit Inc. ecumenical youth group, a resale shop called Cinderella’s Cellar and other groups will no longer be available, Franklin said.
“I hope that the Diocesan Immigration Program will continue with additional outside funding,” he said of the advocacy program for the immigrant community.
Training for priests and a marriage tribunal also operate out of the pastoral center, Diocese spokesman David Montgomery said.
Craig Levien, an attorney representing at least 37 men alleging sexual abuse, said he was “immensely sympathetic” to those losing their jobs.
“The timing of it seems odd,” Levien said of the layoffs. “The only extraordinary expenses for the diocese in the last year I’m aware of are attorney fees.”
Todd Ruger can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or email@example.com.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.