Victims Group Asks for Names of Abusive Priests
Associated Press, carried in Quad-City Times [Davenport IA]
January 4, 2006
DES MOINES (AP)— A group representing clergy sex abuse victims delivered a letter to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Des Moines on Tuesday asking church officials to take stronger action against abusers.
A group of six people supporting the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests met outside the diocesan headquarters in downtown Des Moines before taking the letter to church officials.
Diocese spokeswoman Anne Marie Cox said Bishop Joseph L. Charron was not in the building to meet with the group. She said Chancellor Tom Chapman accepted the letter and he assured them that the letter would be given to Charron.
The letter asks Charron to warn local families about Bishop Emeritus Lawrence Soens of the Sioux City diocese.
Soens, who retired in 1998, has been accused in at least nine lawsuits of molesting boys while he was principal at Iowa City Regina High School, and while he was rector of St. Ambrose Seminary in Davenport. He settled one of the cases last year and has denied all charges. He remains active in the church and there have been no efforts by church officials to investigate the cases against him or discipline him, SNAP said.
The group asked Charron to prevent Soens from participating in Des Moines Diocese events and asked for his help in taking action against Soens.
The letter also asked Charron to disclose on the diocese Web site and in church bulletins the names of credibly accused sex abusers in the church and to monitor their living arrangements.
Steve Theisen, director of SNAP in Iowa, said the diocese should follow Iowa sex abuse laws, which prohibit a convicted abuser from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care center.
"We will ask him to do the same thing the Iowa law does to protect children and warn parents and let abusers know it will not be tolerated in Iowa," he said.
Theisen acknowledged that forcing accused priests to follow the rule could create problems because they haven't been convicted of a crime, but he said protecting children is more important than sheltering priests who have been accused of abuse.
The group also said the Des Moines Diocese, which includes 83 parishes in 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa, has underreported the number of clergy accused of abuse. The Davenport Diocese and Dubuque Archdiocese each have reported about 26 priests accused of abuse. Des Moines has reported three, SNAP said.
"Regardless of the accurate number, SNAP wants the molesters publicly named and carefully monitored," the group said in a statement.
Cox said Charron has invited victims of clergy abuse to meet with him and the church's victim assistant advocates.
"What's important to us is to make sure that we have a safe environment for our children," she said. "The victims have shined a light on a problem that was in the church and we have taken significant steps in recent years to try and make sure that we have a safe environment and we continue to pursue them."
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