Diocese Announces Vatican Recommendations

WQAD [Davenport IA]
January 18, 2005

DAVENPORT – The Diocese of Davenport says it has received decisions from the Vatican on whether to defrock three priests accused of sexually abusing children and another convicted of child pornography.

A review board recommended defrocking James Janssen, Francis Bass, William Wiebler, Frank Martinez, and Richard Poster. Last September, Pope John Paul II granted the request to defrock Janssen.

The diocese announced Tuesday the Vatican’s decision on the remaining four priests.

The Vatican recommended that Francis Bass "lead a life of prayer and penance," offering mass once a week "in reparation for the crimes he has committed." Bishop William Franklin, Bishop of the Davenport Diocese, says the recommendation was based on Bass’s retired status and "advancing age." Franklin says Bass is subject to an additional precept where he must inform the Diocese of any change of address, submit reports of his activities, meet regularly with diocesan officials, seek approval for any vacations or time spent away from his residence, and submit to random visits with church officials. He is also prohibited from wearing a Roman collar or presenting himself publicly as a priest.

Franklin says the Vatican authorized a trial within the Catholic church for William Wiebler. If it is recommended that Wiebler be defrocked, another request must be submitted to the Vatican. He would have a right to appeal the decision. Beyond that, he would be subject to a precept similar to the one imposed on Bass.

Frank Martinez would also undergo a trial within the church. Franklin says the Vatican has allowed him to consider whether Martinez could exercise the Holy Orders.

The Vatican requested information be provided on the investigation into Richard Poster.

The Vatican’s recommendations were part of a seven-page report updating an internal investigation into reports of sexual abuse against minors, detailing various audits.

Audit results

Tuesday’s report also detailed findings by The Gavin Group, Inc., a group selected by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to ensure that dioceses were taking appropriate measures to protect their youngest parishioners.

The audit was conducted by two ex-FBI agents, and determined that the Davenport diocese was fully compliant with the conference’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Auditors also amended the initial report of 65 claims against twenty clergy members and two lay members of the diocese. According to Franklin, auditors found that some allegations were based on inadequate or unreliable information, and that the number of victims was over reported. The auditors report 60 allegations by 53 victims against 19 priests from 1950 to February 25, 2004, when the diocese announced the results of its internal investigation.

New allegations

Franklin says since the investigation’s completion in February of 2004, the diocese has received an additional 48 allegations of abuse from 41 people involving 17 clergy members. Nearly two-thirds of the new allegations involve William Wiebler (12), James Janssen (9), and Francis Bass (9). The other priests accused include five men who are now deceased and have no prior allegations on record, Franklin explains.As part of a Memorandum of Understanding adopted in November, the complaints have been turned over to the Scott County Attorney's Office.Combining the new allegations with those stated in the February 2004 report, the diocese reports 108 allegations made by 96 people against 25 clergy members.

Auditors found seven people who claimed they were abused before 1950. The diocese says the priests in question have been dead for some time.