Bishop Accountability
  Group Urges Investigation into Church Sex-Abuse Scandal

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
October 30, 2004

One day after the Davenport Catholic Diocese announced a $9 million settlement with dozens of men who alleged they were abused by priests as children, an out-of-state group suggested that the state's top lawyer investigate the diocese.

Officials with issued a news release Friday asking the Iowa attorney general to seek a grand jury investigation of the Davenport diocese's handling of sexual-abuse allegations over the past 50 years.

The nonprofit Web site lists its mission as providing a national archive of documents to hold bishops and church leaders accountable for their role in the national Catholic sex-abuse scandal.

The Web site's founder and co-director, Terence McKiernan, of Massachusetts, said the financial settlement could "close the book on 50 years of corporate diocesan responsibility for these crimes against children."

He said that unless there is an independent investigation, the records and practices of the diocese that enabled abusive priests to continue harming children will again be cloaked in secrecy.

"It is essential that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller investigate, using the power of subpoena and the power to compel sworn testimony," McKiernan said. "An investigation would also be able to look at criminal liability, whereas the settlement pertains only to civil liability."

Such an investigation normally would be ordered by the appropriate county attorney, according to Bob Brammer, spokesman for the attorney general's office.

"When there are allegations of a criminal nature, the county attorneys get first crack at it," Brammer said.

William Davis, Scott County attorney, said that he gets requests like this from time to time, but he doesn't let out-of-state interests "drive the boat."

"And if I did convene a grand jury, then everything would be secret until the matter goes to trial," Davis said.

On Friday, Davis and Davenport Bishop William Franklin announced that the county attorney's office will investigate all future allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy that occur in the Davenport diocese.


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