No. 2 Priest Wants His Job Back

By Todd Ruger
Quad-City Times [Davenport IA]
May 19, 2005

The second-ranking priest in the Catholic Diocese of Davenport — on leave pending the resolution of a civil lawsuit alleging that he sexually abused a minor in the 1970s — wants to continue working for the diocese now that the lawsuit has been settled, his attorney said.

Monsignor Drake Shafer, the diocese's vicar general, never has done anything but deny the allegation by a West Burlington, Iowa, man identified in court records only as "John Doe," the only allegation in his 30 years as a priest, attorney Peter Fieweger said Tuesday.

"He is going to do everything in his power to get back into his full priestly functions," Fieweger said the day after he received paperwork that the case is officially dismissed.

The diocese said its Review Board will look at the allegation against Shafer when it receives final word on the lawsuit's resolution.

The settlement is "certainly not an indication of any fault" against Shafer, Fieweger said.

"I feel he is really an outstanding priest and I believe in him, and frankly think the period of time he has not been able to serve the diocese has been a detriment to the diocese," he said.

"The settlement represented a conclusion of a case that would have been very expensive to try and would have been two people telling diametrically different stories to a jury," he added. "I think that both parties are benefited by the settlement to put it behind them."

Craig Levien, Doe's attorney, said Doe's case against Shafer contained an "e-mail that is an admission of serious misconduct" that was read aloud during a court hearing when the diocese asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit in March 2004.

Shafer's April 5, 2002, e-mail to the alleged victim states that the incident "was the only time in my priesthood when anything remotely like it happened."

"We believe the review board will do the right thing," Levien said, adding that he believes diocese policy says that even one incident of indecent contact with a minor by a priest means that person should not be in the priesthood.

Fieweger said he does not believe those e-mails are admissions of wrongdoing.

"I think Drake was basically trying to counsel this guy and trying to help him," he said. "He has really shown a priestly concern for this claimant."

The case was difficult because it involved a repressed memory that Doe claims not to have had any recollection of the event from about 1976 to 2002, Fieweger said.

"Nobody in the world wants to be charged with that (sexual abuse)," Fieweger said. "It's affected the last three years of (Shafer's) life."

A settlement in the case was reached in April, but the official paperwork was not filed until May 12.

Levien said Shafer agreed to pay the cost of past mental health counseling for Doe, but did not release that amount.