Victims: Diocese Finally Has Taken Responsibility
By Todd Ruger
October 29th, 2004
Victims of sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Diocese of Davenport
reacted to Thursday’s settlement with mixed hearts.
They cheered a “monumental day” for what they called the first
time the diocese has taken responsibility for what happened to them.
But they tempered that with the work that still remains in making sure
the diocese properly handles future allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
“I should be happy and overjoyed, but I’m not,” said
Mike Hitch of Oklahoma, who filed a lawsuit alleging abuse by former priest
“There’s a bit of sadness here I can’t hardly explain,”
he said, adding that he believes other classmates from Fort Madison, Iowa,
also were abused but haven’t come forward.
“There are a lot of people out there who are still hurting.”
John Schildgen of Texas, who said Janssen improperly touched him as a
boy in 1960, years after the diocese knew of similar complaints against
the priest, said even though the 37 claimants settled for $9 million,
“it was never about the money.”
“I wanted to go to trial, I wanted the documents to be exposed to
the media,” Schildgen said. He added that he agreed to the settlement
under the threat of bankruptcy even though it means the claims may never
be played out in court. Janssen has denied the allegations.
“If they looked at the documents, there’d be a lot more uproar
from the faithful,” Schildgen said.
David Clohessy, executive director of a national advocacy group, Survivors
Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said that’s the most
clear downside of the settlement.
“Church leaders don’t take the witness stand, and secret documents
aren’t disclosed, and the true extent of the coverup is hard to
determine and spell out for the public,” he said.
He uses one criteria to determine whether settlements are good: if the
men and women who took the risk of standing up to the church feel better.
For Don Green of DeWitt, Iowa, who said he spent years with his wife,
Ann, trying to change the church internally before filing a lawsuit, the
settlement signals relief from a stressful time for his family.
“The way we’ve looked at this the whole time is we’re
just supposed to do the right thing,” he said. “This doesn’t
mean it’s over.”
Ann Green, part of Catholics for Spiritual Healing based at Sts. Philip
and James Catholic Church in Grand Mound, Iowa, said the settlement marked
a starting point for “a new phase of healing for everybody.”
The group will “see to it that further cases brought to their attention
will be dealt with swiftly without penalizing the victims,” she
Todd Ruger can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.