Catholics Seek Healing for Abuse Victims

By Rob Daniel
Press-Citizen [Iowa City IA]
December 9, 2004

Healing, accountability and reform are the main goals of a grassroots movement of Catholics in response to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.

The group met Wednesday at St. Thomas More Church, 405 N. Riverside Drive, in Iowa City to discuss how best to approach the Davenport Diocese about the church leadership's response to allegations that several clergy abused children the past 40 years in Iowa City-area parishes. Leaders within the group claim the Diocese leadership did not investigate the claims thoroughly and tried to cover them up.

The Rev. David Hitch, a priest at St. Mary's Church in Tipton, said his brother, Mike, was abused.

"I was in the seminary while he was at home being abused by our parish priest," he told the crowd of about 50 people. "I struggle with a lot of things of my brother's abuse."

Hitch did not identify the church.

This led Hitch to team with Iowa City resident Dorothy Whiston in reaching out to clergy abuse victims.

The group first met last month. About 50 people attended Wednesday night's two-hour session. Organizers planned a third meeting to discuss how to achieve its goals of healing, accountability and reform within the Davenport Diocese, Whiston said. The third meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 9 at St. Thomas More.

The ser-ies of meetings comes as the John-son County Attorney's Office continues to investigate allegations that a former Iowa City priest sexually abused a boy in 1998. The priest, the Rev. Paul Deyo, served at three Iowa City area parishes and taught at Regina High School between 1991 and 2000.

He has been restricted from active duty since the allegations were made in July 2003. No criminal charges have been filed.

Whiston said she decided to become involved after finding reports of the Davenport Diocese allegedly covering up claims of sexual abuse by clergy. The reports became public after a court order last year and now are posted on the Internet at

"That's horrifying," Whis-ton said about the reports. "It's clear from these records (the diocese) moved people around, covered things up."

Whiston said she hoped the victims' movement would spread among other Catholic parishes.

"Once we take this panel to other parishes, we'll find other victims," Whiston said.

The meeting also featured testimonies from ab-use victims.

Steve Theisen of Hudson said he survived a two-year period of non-sexual abuse from his priest as he grew up in the early 1960s in Dubuque. Theisen said he came forward with his story last year after news of abuse allegations by priests in the Boston, Mass., area. He now wants to start a local chapter of his support group, Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

"I'm hopeful it's a grassroots effort to bring out the truth for healing of survivors, for the people in the pews, and for the diocese itself," Theisen said.

Wilf and Kathrine Nixon of Iowa City also spoke at the meeting. While they are not clergy abuse victims, they said they had to get involved.

"It's devastating," Wilf Nixon said. "If the priest is doing something horrendously wrong, it's a huge abuse of power."


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